New Florida PIP Insurance Law Requires Swift Action by Injury Victims

When Florida citizens or visitors are involved in car accidents, boating accidents, truck accidents or other crashes that cause serious injuries, obtaining appropriate medical care should always be their first concern. But most every injured driver, passenger or motorcycle rider eventually wonders how they will pay for the losses they have suffered.

Personal injury claims are an important means of resolving disputes over who should pay and how much. In almost every case involving vehicles, a considerable share of damages is paid from insurance coverage, and a major recent change to Florida insurance laws has important implications for car accident victims.

Florida lawmakers recently amended the statute that governs personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, and many changes went into effect on July 1. PIP is no-fault coverage that pays up to $10,000 for injuries suffered in an accident regardless of fault.

Regulators and politicians hope that the major reform will curb fraud such as fake accidents and excessive billing by health care providers. Other important changes include:

  • Expanding the information in crash reports to include the identity of all drivers and passengers
  • Tighter licensing requirements will be imposed on clinics
  • A new organization, overseen by the state Chief Financial Officer, will be formed to combat PIP fraud (though it will not receive state funding)
  • Payments for non-emergency treatment will be limited to $2,500, and a doctor, osteopathic physician, dentist, supervised physician's assistant or advanced registered nurse practitioner must establish that the person suffered an "emergency medical condition" (chiropractors are not authorized to make this diagnosis)
  • Payments for acupuncture and massage therapy will no longer be allowed

Consumer groups and plaintiffs lawyers argue that the reforms will only limit coverage for drivers without the promised benefits of better rates for vehicle owners. While insurance companies are expected by law to reduce rates for PIP coverage by 10 percent this year and 25 percent by 2014, the law also allows them to simply explain why this will not be possible.

Car accident injury attorneys have expressed concern that the law will shut out individuals who suffer back and neck injuries and other conditions that do not immediately present symptoms. The new law places a 14-day limit for an injury victim to seek medical treatment that will be eligible for PIP benefits.

Responding to Increased Car Insurance Costs by Reducing Benefits

Advocates for change point to a steady rise in PIP rates in recent years. According to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, rates for various insurers have gone up from 50 to nearly 95 percent since 2009. Yet it is easy to see how the immediate decrease in available benefits to policyholders will bring a windfall to insurance companies.

Whether a car accident injury victim needs to seek benefits from his or her own PIP insurance policy or from another driver's general liability coverage, a personal injury lawyer can explain the variety of complex factors that go into negotiating a settlement or filing a legal claim. By identifying all potentially liable parties and examining all potential sources of compensation, an attorney can help a client pursue full compensation for lost income, medical expenses and property damage caused by a motor vehicle crash.