It is hard to believe, in these tough economic times, Florida’s legislature and Governor Rick Scott feel that Personal Injury Protection Insurance (PIP) is such a huge priority that they have spent most of this year’s 60 day legislative session wrangling over how to gut the PIP Statute §627.736.
Senate Bill (SB) 1860 is designed to reform PIP insurance which currently provides Florida victims of car, truck or pedestrian accidents $10,000 in health or lost wage coverage, regardless of who causes the accident.
The new proposals create licensing requirements on health care providers, and eliminate massage therapy and acupuncture from covered care. The House version of the Bill forces accident victims to seek medical treatment within seven (7) days of the accident in order to claim PIP benefits while the Senate version extends it to fourteen (14) days and would pay up to $2,500 for treatment by a personal physician. There are also proposed strict limits on the amount of attorney’s fees charged against insurance companies when, and if, they fail to comply with the PIP policy or statute.
According to Senator Joe Negron, who sponsored the bill, it would curb what he describes as the skyrocketing cost of insurance as a result of staged and phony car accidents.
As a lawyer who has helped thousands of people injured in Homestead car wrecks and North Miami pedestrian accidents, any PIP insurance law that would force people to seek medical attention within a week or two of an accident, or jeopardize losing coverage, is a huge mistake, for several reasons. First, it will flood emergency rooms, urgent care centers and doctors’ offices with people who might otherwise have postponed treatment in the hopes that their injuries would resolve. This influx of patients might actually cause a delay in having more seriously ill or injured people seen by ER doctors.
Secondly, a typical post-car crash visit to a local Miami emergency room for a few x-rays and a CT Scan will exhaust most PIP coverage on the first day of treatment, leaving nothing for the injured in terms of physical therapy, chiropractic treatment or for lost wages. Third, I question what effect compelling potentially injured people to seek treatment within a week of an accident would do to the employers and families of the injured, while their loved ones are being forced to seek immediate treatment rather than waiting to see if the pain subsides. Lastly, eliminating acupuncture and massage therapy from coverage precludes the patient from having access to non-traditional medical modes of treatment. In my twenty years of practicing traffic injury law in South Florida I have had many patients who have had spectacular relief by getting acupuncture and massage therapy instead of traditional physical therapy, surgery or medication. I believe that injury victims should have the right to choose who they treat with and not be forced to select only those healthcare providers chosen by the State of Florida. None of the proposed changes make sense to me as they provide no benefit to the injured, unless of course, Governor Scott is motivated to increase revenue to hospitals and insurance companies?
What is “Personal Injury Protection” (PIP) insurance?
Also called Florida No Fault Insurance, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance covers you – regardless of fault (i.e. whether or not you cause the crash) – up to the limits of your policy. Your PIP will also cover your child, members of your household, certain passengers who lack PIP Insurance as long as they do not own a vehicle. People riding in your vehicle who carry PIP will receive coverage under their own PIP for their injuries, and certain licensed drivers who drive your vehicle with your permission. PIP also covers your child if he or she suffers an injury while riding on a school bus. PIP coverage protects you while in someone else’s vehicle, as a pedestrian, or bicyclist if you suffer an injury in a crash involving a motor vehicle. The Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, requires all owner/registrants of a motor vehicle with four wheels or more to carry a minimum of $10,000 of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and $10,000 of property damage liability (PDL) if you own a motor vehicle in Florida. Florida law requires you to maintain PIP/PDL insurance continuously throughout the licensing and registration period.