Florida’s new personal injury protection law has now taken effect. Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott was a big proponent of the law which substantially reduces the amount of benefits people are entitled to if they become automobile accident victims. The governor promoted the new PIP law as a method of eliminating the fraud which, according to the Governor, was causing Florida taxpayers to pay unreasonably high insurance premiums.
As a result of the new law, Florida drivers who would previously have been entitled to $10,000 in personal injury protection benefits to cover medical bills and lost wages as a result of a motor vehicle accident will now be entitled to zero dollars in personal injury protection benefits if they don’t seek medical treatment within 14 days from the date of the accident. For those people whose injuries do not manifest themselves within 14 days from the date of the accident, or for anybody who procrastinates seeking medical treatment for 14 days, there will be no PIP benefits available, despite the fact that these folks will continue to pay their insurance premiums. This results in up to a $10,000 windfall for the insurance company with no benefit to the consumer.
Likewise, for accident victims who sustain non-emergency type injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident, their benefits will be cut by 75%, or $7500. In other words, they will only be entitled to $2500 worth (as opposed to $10,000 worth) of medical and lost wage benefits, regardless of the amount of their medical bills. For example consider a person who sustains an injury that is determined to be a non-emergency medical condition. If this person’s Injuries require physical therapy, injections, pain medication, or other type of medical treatment that is considered non-emergency medical
treatment, his benefits will cut off at $2500. Again, this will save the insurance company up to $7500 which the company otherwise would have had to pay, and will leave the consumer strapped with up to $7500 worth of out-of-pocket medical bills.
Who determines whether somebody’s condition is an emergency medical condition: medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, and nurse practitioners. Chiropractors are not allowed to make such a determination. One of the big problems for consumers, however, will be finding a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or nurse practitioner who is willing to see patients whose only insurance coverage is personal injury protection coverage. Law firms are already receiving letters from medical doctors stating they are no longer taking automobile accident victims as patients unless the victims have their own private health insurance coverage to pay the bills. This might not be a huge problem in big cities. However, in small towns with only a limited number of doctors, accident victims will often have nowhere to go to seek medical treatment. They can go to the emergency room in the nearest city, but if their vehicle was damaged in the accident that might present a problem. Even cities as big as Tallahassee have a scarce number of doctors who were willing to see accident victims before the new PIP law took effect. That number will reduce substantially as a result of the new PIP law and the uncertainty of the doctor getting paid.
If an insurance company suspects fraud, under the new PIP law it has up to 90 days after submission of a claim to pay the bill or deny it. This is an additional disincentive for doctors who might otherwise be willing to treat automobile accident victims.
Additionally the new PIP law states that PIP insurance will no longer pay for massage therapy services or acupuncture.
What do Florida taxpayers get back in return for substantially reduced and sometimes eliminated personal injury protection benefits? Absolutely nothing. There is no evidence that any of the major
insurance companies have reduced their premiums despite the substantial savings the insurance companies stand to reap as a result of the changed PIP law. The new law requires insurance companies to either make small concessions on their premiums or explain why they cannot justify making such concessions. The escape clause allows insurance companies to charge whatever they want and reap profits greater than ever.
Our advice to people who are involved in an automobile accident in 2013 and beyond: Seek medical treatment as soon as possible and call a lawyer to discuss your rights before making a mistake that could waive your entitlement to benefits.