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Controversial bill that would eliminate PIP insurance headed to Governor DeSantis’ desk

Critics say SB 54 would send auto insurance costs soaring
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Posted at 6:39 PM, May 25, 2021

Governor Ron Desantis hasn't said whether he plans to veto SB 54 or sign it into law. The highly debated measure would end Florida's no-fault insurance, also known as PIP. Critics say if PIP goes away, it will trigger drastic rate hikes on drivers who can least afford it.

The measure known as SB 54 gets rid of no-fault insurance but mandates every driver in Florida to carry a minimum of $25,000 in bodily injury protection.

Veteran industry analyst Bob Hunter is with the Consumer Federation of America. Once a proponent of personal injury protection, Hunter says the system, now ripe with fraud, needs a fix.

"The states that have had trouble with no-fault, usually it is because of additional costs due to fraud," Hunter said.

But critics, including GOP State Senator Jeff Brandes, who voted against SB 54, say the law will mean higher premiums for low-income drivers.

"Rates for your poorest residents will go up 40% based on their geography," Brandes said.

The insurance industry has inundated the governor's office with appeals to veto SB 54. The American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) estimates if passed SB 54 ".....could increase the cost of the average auto insurance policy by as much as 23% or $344."

But the Consumer Federation of America says that hasn't happened in other states that have done away with PIP coverage.

"The bill has lower limits of liability for poorer people, which will help keep the price down," Hunter said.

And consumer watchdog Florida's Consumer Action Network points to a five-year-old state study that found repealing PIP and adding bodily injury "….would result in only a 5.6% increase for most Floridians."

Disagreements over the bill have GOP lawmakers on opposite sides of the argument.

Chris Boyar, an attorney representing consumers who run into trouble with their insurance company, says SB 54 is not in the best interest of drivers; "You're actually paying more for what I believe is less protection."

Boyar says higher premiums will lead to more uninsured drivers on the road. Already an estimated 20% of the drivers in Florida don't have coverage. And he predicts a windfall for attorneys who file personal injury lawsuits.

"Those trial lawyers want to get rid of PIP because they will make thousands more on every claim," Boyar said.

ABC Action News contacted the governor's office. A spokesperson said there are many bills, including SB 54, still awaiting Gov. Desantis' consideration. Any of these bills, including SB 54, would have to be signed by July 1 in order to become law.