Changes in Florida Personal Injury Protection Law May Lower Insurance Rates
On the last day of the 2012 legislative session, Florida lawmakers reached a deal to revamp Florida’s no-fault auto insurance.
After the bill is signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, as he has vowed to do, the changes to Florida’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) program will become effective July 1, 2012 – except for a few provisions that will take effect later.
By October 1, insurance carriers that issue auto policies in Florida must either cut their rates by 10% or explain why not to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulations.
Insurers must make another rate filing by January 1, 2014, and must ask for at least a 25% reduction or explain why.
Rate reductions are not actually required by the law, and Florida consumers may not see real savings for some time.
The law may also face challenges from groups affected by it, such as chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, and operators of pain clinics and accident referral services.
Florida lawmakers have been working for several weeks on ways to fix the PIP system, which pays the first $10,000 in medical bills in auto accidents, regardless of who is at fault for the personal injuries suffered.
The PIP system became law in 1972, and was intended to assure that anyone who suffered a personal injury in an auto accident could seek timely medical treatment.
The new law limits the treatments that patients can receive and also tries to eliminate the fraud that insurance companies blame for their high rates.
PIP insurance rates have doubled or more as claims increased from $1.45 billion in 2008 to $2.45 billion in 2010. An average family with two cars in Miami now pays $1,861 for for PIP coverage. The comparable rates are $1,409 in Tampa, $1,102 in Palm Beach, and $797 in Orlando. The national average rate is $1,500.
Under the new law, in order to be reimbursed by PIP, a personal injury victim must be treated by a physician, osteopath, dentist, chiropractor, physician’s assistant, or advanced registered nurse practitioner, or the medical services must be provided in a hospital or a facility wholly owned by a hospital. Initial care must be provided within 14 days of the accident. A $5,000 death benefit is included. Massage and acupuncture treatment are not reimbursable.
The bill allows for a 90-day limit on investigation of claims where there is a reasonable suspicion of fraud, and an insurer’s lawyers may ask the insured to answer questions under oath.
If you or a family member have suffered a personal injury in Florida, you can learn more about your rights by contacting an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer at the firm of Rue & Ziffra.