Sweeping Changes To Florida's Personal Injury Protection Law Benefit Insurance Companies Not Citizens
Changes to Personal Injury Protection Undermine Protection Of The Injured, Add Burden To Law Enforcement, Open Back Door For Insurance Companies to Be Excluded From Billing Reduction And Guarantee Increased Litigation.
As so many times before when politicians make changes to highly technical and complex laws their lack of understanding can undermine their intent. Due to the complex nature of the PIP law, it's understandable that the average Florida State Legislature would not have a complete working knowledge of how the PIP or No-Fault Law affects citizens, law enforcement, businesses and the courts. However, you need only to look at who are the winners and losers of the new changes to gain perspective on the motivation of the new rules. These changes were set in motion under the guise of reducing / preventing insurance fraud – a rampant problem throughout Florida.
After close examination of the new law it becomes obvious the new rules are a boon to Florida insurance companies. The new PIP rules will make it more difficult for people who have been injured on Florida's roadways to receive their claims benefits in good faith, and allow insurance companies a loophole for keeping rates high. The new rules will also have the unintended effect of increasing both litigation and administrative burden on law enforcement. Whether or not any of the new changes will actually reduce insurance fraud remains to be seen. Below I have outlined the ways the new PIP laws will affect all parties with a stake in Florida's No-Fault laws.
Effects Of The New Personal Injury Protection (No Fault) Law
Passed this Past Legislative Session
- Effect on Insurance Companies:
The new statute calls for 10% reduction in insurance company billing for PIP benefits in October 2012 and 25% reduction in billing for PIP benefits in 2014 but the insurance companies have right to petition for exclusion from the above. Therefore, the effect on insurance companies billing reduction for citizens of Florida is unlikely.
- Effect on Law Enforcement
A long form accident report must now be done in every accident involving death, injury, pain complaints, if wrecker is required or if collision involves a commercial vehicle. Therefore, law enforcement has a much greater burden to comply with this new law and its requirements.
- Effect on Fraudulent Claims
This new statute allows a penalty for false applications in insurance policies and benefits. This portion of the statute reiterates laws already in effect on insurance fraud.
- Effect on Florida Citizens
The ten thousand dollars ($10,000) personal injury benefits are restricted to a showing by a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathic medicine, dentist, physicians assistant or registered nurse practitioner that the auto accident injuries constitute a need for Immediate Medical Attention such that absence of medical care would result in:
- Serious jeopardy to health
- Serious impairment of bodily functions or
- Serious dysfunction of bodily organ or parts
This finding of Emergency Medical Condition “MUST” be made within 14 days of date of accident. If NO finding of Emergency Medical Condition is made during the fourteen days after a collision, personal injury benefits allowed are restricted to twenty five hundred dollars ($2,500). If no treatment is received within fourteen days (14) then NO personal injury benefits need to be paid.
- Effect on Lawyers
The wording of this new statute lends itself to a sharp increase of litigation as to wrongful denial of personal injury benefits by insurance companies. Lawyers may charge for time spent litigating these cases but can no longer seek a multiplier of fees through the judges. In addition to more litigation on personal injury benefit denials, this new statute is worded so that numerous constitutional challenges will be forthcoming.
- Effect on Chiropractors, Massage Therapist and Acupuncturist
Massage and acupuncture are eliminated from personal injury benefits. Chiropractic Physicians can not render an opinion as to whether their patient has an Emergency Medical Condition qualifying their patient for the full personal injury benefits ($10,000) for treatment.
Portions of this statute go into effect earlier but a majority of the new PIP law begins 1/1/2013. Note that an insurance company is NOT required to amend its policy or notify its insured for this new law to take effect.
WINNERS: The insurance companies stand to collect fees and provide far less benefits.
LOSERS: Citizens of Florida will receive less benefits on their automobile insurance policy if they are injured in an auto collision.