The Florida legislature’s changes in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) law due to take effect on January 1, 2013 were passed under the guise of preventing insurance fraud, but in reality hurt multiple non-insurance groups in Florida, including some medical providers and especially injured motorists. This new law is predicted to allow insurance companies to collect similar or higher rates while providing fewer benefits to policyholders. Florida requires each driver to carry at least $10,000 in PIP coverage, which allows a Florida motorist to receive medical benefits if involved in an accident, even if the accident is their fault.
As part of the changes, individuals injured in car accidents will have only 14 days to seek initial treatment as opposed to the previous policy that placed no time limit on treatments. If treatment is sought after two weeks, nothing will be reimbursed by the insurance company. Further, policyholders may be eligible for only $2,500 in coverage, as opposed to the previous limit of $10,000. Only those with serious injuries are eligible for the higher limit, while those with less severe injuries will receive only up to $2,500. According to the Tampa Bay Times patients will need certification by a medical doctor, osteopathic physician, dentist, physician assistant, or advanced registered nurse practitioner corroborating that the injury required immediate medical attention.
In addition to those injured, massage therapists and acupuncturists will no longer be allowed to treat patients under PIP. Even more worrisome to Florida citizens is that the law does not require insurance companies to notify policyholders that changes are forthcoming, effectively pulling coverage away from them without their knowledge or understanding. The new PIP law forces insurance companies to reduce their PIP rates by at least 25% by 2014, but they may petition the government to be excluded from these requirements. As many are receiving exceptions to the law, the changes have a chilling effect of ripping benefits from policyholders and proving a windfall for insurance companies. Since, according to the Bradenton Herald, PIP coverage only covers about 20 percent of a driver’s insurance bill, this bill (even if actually followed by insurance companies) would likely not decrease rates enough to offset the reductions in coverage Floridians are soon to experience.
The constitutionality of this new law will undoubtedly be challenged by multiple different groups. A coalition of Florida massage therapists, chiropractors, and acupuncturists have filed a lawsuit fighting the limits the new law puts on what types of medical professionals and procedures will be covered after an accident.
The 14-day limit sets an extremely small window for injured motorists to seek medical treatment, and thus many drivers that hesitate to seek help immediately will likely be shut out of PIP compensation. Due to this change, it is absolutely critical for those injured in auto accidents to contact a Morgan & Morgan PIP attorney immediately following an accident to ensure that their rights are protected.