Florida Statutes section 627.733, entitled Required Security, requires all motor vehicle owners to maintain “no-fault” automobile insurance covering, among other items, 80% of the insured’s own medical expenses. See §§ 627.733(1), (3)(a), 627.736(1)(a). The typical Florida PIP policy has a $10,000 coverage limit with deductibles of up to $2,000.
From a fair reading of the statutes it seems that every vehicle owner who procures the mandatory no-fault coverage is exempted from tort liability for 80% of medical expenses and 60% of lost wages up to the PIP policy limit (typically $10,000).
However, what happens when the fault-free party fails to maintain the required PIP coverage? In other words, the non-negligent party is in violation of the law by failing to maintain PIP.
Until the Florida Supreme Court rules on the issue, the answer depends on where in Florida the accident happens.
Florida’s civil court system is divided into county courts, circuit courts, district courts of appeal, and the Florida Supreme Court. The county and circuit courts are the only trial courts within the system, while the DCAs and the Florida Supreme Court are dedicated appellate courts.
The DCA system is broken into 5 districts. For example, Tallahassee is located within the 1st DCA, Miami-Dade County the 3rd, Broward and Palm Beach Counties in the 4th.
Where the Florida Supreme Court is silent on a subject, the decisions of the various district appellate courts control within their own districts. It is not unusual for there to be conflicts among and between the various DCAs, although the Florida Supreme Court frequently steps in to settle matters.
Not so with the issue at hand.
In the 3rd (Cases v. Gray, 894 So.2d 268 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2004)) and 4th (Holt v. King, 707 So.2d 1141 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998)) DCAs, where the non-negligent party fails to maintain the required PIP coverage, that person is considered to be self-insured for PIP. In other words, the person as if he or she had PIP coverage. Accordingly, the uninsured person is not able to recover from the at-fault party the damages that would have been payable under PIP.
The 2nd DCA (Jedlicka v. Proctor, 724 So.2d 668 (Fla. 2d DCA 1999)) and the 5th DCA (Stephens v. Renard, 487 So.2d 1079 (Fla. 5th DCA 1986)) take a different view. These courts allow the uninsured person to recover damages from the at-fault party that PIP would otherwise have paid.
The conflict has existed for many years. It may never be resolved.
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Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.