Crash victim urges changes in Florida's auto insurance regulations

Drivers now don't have to cover others' injuries
Posted at 6:26 PM, Apr 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-19 02:13:13-04

Currently, Florida is considered a "no fault" state when it comes to auto accidents.

It’s one of just two states that doesn't require drivers to have insurance that covers injuries to other people.

But the I-Team has learned that the minimal coverage requirements has life changing consequences for innocent victims in the Sunshine State.

“They said that my heart stopped,” recalls James Ohnesorge, who was hit while riding his bike at the intersection of U.S. Highway 90 and Maryland Avenue in Hudson last December.

The crash report says the driver of the Chevrolet Impala that hit her, Kimberly Paradise, failed to yield.

“My bicycle, I never recovered it. They said it was split in half,” said Ohnesorge, who was thrown into the windshield, shattering it.

“I remember laying on the ground, someone holding my hand saying the rescue is on its way,” he said.

He was rushed to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, where he was treated for a shattered shoulder, head injuries and a broken ankle.

But it was after he was released that he realized his life-threatening injuries were far from his only problem.

“My hospital bill is $155,600,” said Ohnesorge.

Paradise, who had another crash six months earlier, had the minimum required insurance, which doesn't cover other people's injuries.

“Unfortunately, when you are in a situation like that, even if you're the innocent party and weren't at fault, you're going to be stuck paying your own medical expenses,” said Attorney Nicolette Nicoletti, who is representing Ohnesorge.

She supports a bill currently in the state legislature which would end Florida's "no fault" personal injury protection system and require drivers to purchase policies that require at least $25,000 in injury coverage for victims.

“No matter what, if somebody hits somebody, if you're at fault, you're gonna be on the hook and at least you have the coverage to take care of someone's injuries,” said Nicoletti.

Nicoletti says that might help future victims, but since Paradise has no assets, the only way she can help her client is by setting up a GoFundMe page.

“I've got bills piling up. My rent right now, I paid partial rent,” Ohnesorge said.

The bill providing for changes in auto insurance is still being debated in the Florida Legislature and different versions have passed in House and Senate committees.