Appellant casualty insurance company appeals a declaratory judgment rendered in a suit brought by appellee, its insured, in which he sought and received a judicial declaration of his rights and those of the United States of America under the personal injury protection (no-fault) coverage of the automobile liability insurance policy issued by appellant. The issue resolved by the trial court, and which is presented for decision on this appeal, involves a construction of the Florida Automobile Reparations Reform Act (no-fault insurance) enacted by the 1971 Legislature of this state.
Appellee, John P. Holland, Jr., is a United States Naval Officer on active duty. While undergoing flight training he was involved in an automobile accident from which he sustained serious injuries that prevented him from carrying out the duties connected with his flight training. At the time of his accident he was covered by a policy of automobile liability insurance issued by appellant, United Services Automobile Association, the coverage of which complied with the requirements of the laws of this state. Appellee applied to appellant for three types of benefits under the personal injury protection provisions of his policy. He asked for benefits resulting from loss of flight pay, loss of regular pay, and reimbursement to the Government for medical services furnished by it. Upon consideration of the deposition given by appellee, the issues made by the pleadings, and the personal injury protection endorsement to the insurance policy issued by appellant, the trial court rendered its final judgment in which it found that appellee was entitled to reimbursement for loss of flight pay until such time as he is capable of receiving flight training; finding him entitled to disability benefits until he is
The first question raised by appellant challenges the ruling of the trial court which held that appellee was entitled to claim, under the personal injury protection coverage of his insurance policy, disability benefits based upon loss of wages even though he continued to receive full pay from his employer during the period of his disability.
The purpose of the Florida Automobile Reparations Reform Act
The benefits which every casualty insurance company doing business in Florida is required to furnish its insureds are stated to be:
The required medical and disability benefits which must be included in each automobile liability insurance policy are more specifically defined in the statute as follows:
It is appellant's position that the only benefits which an insured is entitled to recover from his insurer under the no-fault insurance statute are losses which he actually suffers in gross income as a result of his injuries and medical expenses necessarily and actually incurred and paid by him. It contends that so long as the insured's employer has a wage continuation plan in effect whereby the insured is paid his regular wages even though disabled
We are inclined to agree with appellant that the purpose of the Florida Automobile Reparations Reform Act is to remove from the negligence field of litigation certain aspects of motor vehicle injuries. The practical effect of this statute, although not specifically stated therein, is to substitute the injured person's own insurance company for the tortfeasor against whom he previously was permitted to proceed in order to recover damages suffered as a result of the latter's negligence. It would therefore appear that where the damages suffered by the insured result from the tortious acts of third parties, the insured should be entitled to employ against its insurance carrier all provisions of law which he is in other circumstances permitted to employ against his tortfeasor in seeking recovery of damages suffered by him. Since an injured motorist may avail himself of the benefit accorded him under the collateral source rule in actions against tortfeasors, he has the same benefit of this rule when he seeks recovery against his insurance carrier who has now been substituted in the place and stead of the tortfeasor as a source of reimbursement for injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident.
In addition to the above, we find no provision in the statute which precludes an injured policyholder from recovering from his insurer gross income which he was unable to earn during the period of his disability because of the injuries suffered by him except in cases where he has received workmen's compensation benefits under the workmen's compensation law of the state. This particular deduction of workmen's compensation benefits from gross income is required to be made under that provision of the act which states that: "Benefits due from an insurer under [this act] shall be primary, except that benefits received under any workmen's compensation law shall be credited against the benefits provided by subsection (1) [the disability benefits section]...."
We next turn to the remaining question of whether the trial court erred in holding that appellee was entitled to recover, for the use and benefit of the United States of America, the amount determined to be the reasonable value of medical services rendered to him by the United States Navy.
The federal law provides that a member of a uniform service who is on active duty is entitled to medical and dental care in any facility of any uniformed service.
Appellant takes the position that the Florida Automobile Reparations Reform Act makes no requirement that an insurer pay on behalf of its insured medical expenses which a third party is required by law to pay. It therefore reasons that the trial court erred in holding that it is required to reimburse appellee, for the benefit of the United States, for the medical benefits furnished by the latter to appellee as a member of the armed forces, which medical benefits it was required to furnish by virtue of federal law.
There can be no doubt but that if appellee's claim for damages resulting from his injuries was the subject of litigation brought against his tortfeasor, the United States could intervene in the case and claim recovery for the value of the medical services furnished by it to appellee. The right to reimbursement so vested in the United States may not be extinguished merely because the no-fault insurance law immunizes tortfeasors from liability for claims falling within the limitations of the statute and substitutes the insurer for the tortfeasor as the one from whom recovery must be sought. When appellant issued to appellee the insurance policy involved herein it did so with full knowledge of the fact that appellee was a member of the armed forces of the United States, whose medical expenses for injuries received in an automobile accident would be paid by the Government which under the law had a right to claim reimbursement from the tortfeasor. As a real party in interest the United States has the same right under the third-party
We have concluded and so hold that the trial court's construction of the Florida Automobile Reparations Reform Act was correct and proper in all respects and, therefore, the judgment appealed herein is affirmed.
RAWLS, C.J., and CARROLL, DONALD K., J., concur.