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Florida Takes a Step Forward on PIP Reform

In 1972 the Legislature passed a law requiring all licensed Florida drivers to carry $10,000.00 worth of personal injury protection coverage. The legislative intent behind personal injury protection (hereinafter referred to as “PIP”) is to enable an automobile accident victim the ability to seek expeditious medical treatment regardless of who was at fault. Forty (40) years later PIP has come under attack as a system that is troubled and susceptible to abuse and its detractors claim that PIP fraud will cost Florida drivers over a billion this year and is directly responsible for higher insurance premiums.

There have been a number of proposed replacements for the current no-fault system in place yet not one has received enough legislative steam to replace the $10,000.00 PIP coverage that is mandatory for Florida driver. Florida Senate member Joe Negron, Rep. Jim Boyd, Rep. Ritch Workman, and Rep. Mike Horner all oppose and have recommended new proposals to substitute the present no-fault system in place.

Let’s take a brief glance at several of the proposed bills that will be considered during the upcoming legislative session.

Proposal #1: HB119 (Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton)

This proposal would replace PIP with a comparable form of no-fault insurance called “Emergency Care Coverage”. This requires the injured party in an auto accident to seek treatment at the emergency room and limits the types of medical providers that the victim can see for follow up treatment. The bill caps attorney’s fees, and allows the insurance company to have additional time to investigate the claim, as well as allowing physicians retained by the applicable insurance carrier to evaluate their insured.

This will allow hospitals to gouge the $10,000.00 in available coverage and one can only imagine a system in which every auto accident victim received multiple CT-scans and MRI’s in an effort by the hospital to train as much of the $10,000.00 as possible. Is it any shocker that Governor (and former embattled HCA Chairman) Rick Scott is a strong proponent of this bill?

Proposal #2: SB1890 (Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart)

This proposal suggests that in order to utilize your PIP you must receive a long-form accident report as a way to avoid staged accidents. It also requires health clinics to provide licenses in order to participate in the PIP system. This will introduce new measure to streamline the payment process and give hospitals priority standing.

Proposal #3: HB523 (Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne)

Ritch Workman’s proposal is similar to Joe Negron’s, stating that licenses are a necessity for medical providers in order to partake in the PIP system and a statewide force to help eliminate fraud.

Proposal #4: (Rep. Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee)

The last proposal repeals the current no-fault auto insurance system. Instead, drivers would be required to have bodily injury insurance, which would pay the expenses for medical treatment when the driver is at fault in an auto accident. In this circumstance, there would be no type of PIP insurance accessible to the driver at fault regardless of the injuries they sustained.

This bill makes little to no sense and would only create much bigger issues than what it is attempting to solve. In fact, many insurance carriers will opt to delay paying out property damage claims in an effort to force plaintiffs to litigate their claims in order to obtain medical coverage. The present system provides expeditious treatment regardless of who is at fault. This proposed system does just the opposite and many injured parties will be forced to wait extensive periods of time for a Court of law to determine liability before either party involved in the accident is forced to pay for the medical treatment sought. Further, many medical providers will be reluctant to treat injured parties if there is no benefits in place to provide timely payment for services rendered.

Among reasons for repealing the PIP requirement are the following:

  • PIP is claimed to be unreasonable as individuals with insurance are essentially forced to pay for injuries caused by drivers with no insurance.
  • The present PIP system is ripe with fraud and allows individuals the ability to open a medical practice with limited licensing requirements

Among reasons for not repealing the PIP requirement are the following:

  • Without the coverage, chaos would develop and courts would be overburdened with cases.
  • It provides medical benefits to protect Floridians who don’t have health insurance, and to avoid lawsuits and their expenses for minor injuries.

The PIP system was introduced in 1972 to ensure those injured in accidents would receive timely medical treatment. However, growing incidents of fraud have made the system a frequent target for staged accidents. Unfortunately those who abuse the system are creating a heavy public burden that has created a climate for change. I believe simply banning lawyer referral services like Pain-411 and 1-800-Ask-Gary would reduce the number of PIP claims statewide. This is an issue that the legislature should look closely at. It is my opinion that the lawyer referral services often induce many individuals with promises of “up to $10,000.00” for calling the service and retaining an affiliated attorney. These advertisements often do little in the way of explaining how the $10,000.00 is actually insurance benefits available to the injured party as opposed to cold hard cash that the auto accident victim would receive.

Matthew A. Dolman, Esq., is a Clearwater personal injury attorney who limits his practice to first and third party claims relating to an automobile accident, motorcycle accident, traumatic brain injury, catastrophic injury, pedestrian injury, wrongful death and insurance carrier bad faith.

Dolman Law Group is a Pinellas County personal injury and civil trial law firm offering aggressive and competent representation against all insurance carriers to consumers throughout the Tampa Bay area including the cities of Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Largo, Safety Harbor, Pinellas Park, Kenneth City, St. Petersburg Beach, Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Bradenton, Sarasota and Tampa.