The New Florida PIP Law: Why You Must Protect Yourself If you Are Injured In A Car Accident
By: Joshua Frachtman, ESQ.
Florida’s new (PIP) law HB 119, passed in the Senate on March 10, 2012. Parts of the law took effect July 1, 2012, while the full law will be effective January 1, 2013. Florida governor Rick Scott has taken the position that personal injury lawsuits are the primary reason that individual insurance rates increase. He claimed staged accidents and insurance fraud was costing Floridians “a billion dollars a year” by paying higher insurance premiums. Under the current scheme, Florida is a no-fault state, which requires all drivers to carry the minimal PIP insurance limits of $10,000.00. Typically Florida PIP insurance paid 80 percent of an injured person’s medical bills and 60 percent of lost wages up to $10,000 regardless of fault.
Insurance companies claim that the system allows for fraud, excessive medical treatment and an increased incentive to litigate claims. In reality, the current structure is intended to provide essential medical care to victims of automobile accidents, regardless of fault.
The new PIP bill severely limits the ability for injured drivers to obtain the care that is required. For example, accident victims MUST seek medical care within 14 days from the date of the accident. Further, only certain licensed medical physicians qualify for the PIP benefits. In those fourteen days, if the injured motorist seeks medical care anywhere but a hospital, the PIP benefits are reduced to $2,500. One of the most visible changes is that chiropractic treatment will be limited to $2,500, and only after a referral from certain health care providers. Further, emergency medical services must be rendered by a physician, osteopath, dentist, physician’s assistant or registered nurse practitioner. After the two week window closes, no bills will be paid by PIP. Under the new law, patients who believe or prefer a more holistic approach to treatment will find that massage therapists and acupuncturists will no longer qualify for PIP benefits.
Even more oppressive than the time constraints and limited health care options is that the new law permits insurance companies to take Examinations Under Oath (EUO) of their own insureds before any benefits will be paid. The EUO process can be scary and stressful for victims, because an EUO is like a deposition before a lawsuit is filed. You should never submit to an EUO without the advice, representation and protection of an attorney.
The most important advice that you should know regarding the new PIP statute is that if you are in a car accident, you must seek “approved” medical treatment within 14 days. If the insurance company requests an EUO or an “Independent Medical Examination” you should contact our office immediately to protect your rights. If you fail to follow the rigid protocol outlined in the new law, you risk forfeiting the medical treatment and benefits that are afforded to you by law. The law takes complete effect January 1, 2013.
If you have any questions regarding the new law, please contact our office. Below, please find a link to the complete bill.
CS/CS/HB 119: Motor Vehicle Personal Injury Protection Insurance