Florida Judge Issues Injunction Halting Parts of PIP Reform Bill and Questioning the Constitutionality of the Current No-Fault System
We've previously discussed the so-called "PIP reform" efforts that took effect this year, noting that the changes may prevent accident victims from receiving crucial compensation. The law contains a number of traps for the unwary, requiring victims to adhere to some complex procedures in order to qualify for coverage. The reforms that kicked in at the start of 2013 make it even more important for accident victims to seek prompt medical and legal help. As an experienced Florida lawyer focused on helping Panama City car accident victims recover needed monetary compensation, Attorney Pittman understands the maze of PIP coverage and can help injured people obtain money that they are due, funds promised by the very insurance policies they've paid into for many years.
Order Puts Elements of PIP Reform on Hold, Governor Vows Appeal
Last week, as discussed in a News Herald piece, a Florida judge took a sharp look at the recent changes to PIP and to the system in general. In a Tallahassee courtroom, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis declared that the reforms may be unconstitutional and therefore must be temporarily suspended. In passing the reforms, including requiring proof of an "emergency medical condition" in order to qualify for the full $10,000 of PIP coverage, legislators said they wanted to reduce fraud and prevent a resulting increase in the cost of insurance.
Another element of the reform package disallowed PIP payments to acupuncture practitioners and massage therapists. Judge Lewis said that the reforms may not pass constitutional muster because, in part by limiting available medical treatment options and cutting out access to certain providers, the PIP system may not be adequately compensating Florida drivers for sacrificing their right to bring a civil lawsuit.
Florida introduced PIP in the 1970s, replacing the traditional system of "at fault" liability for auto accidents of a limited size in an effort to reduce litigation costs. PIP is short for "personal injury protection." It is an element of your own insurance policy that Florida motorists must carry pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 627.736. PIP covers the first $10,000 of your injuries and lost wages following an auto accident, regardless of fault. However, as the News Herald notes, many believe that the non-fault PIP system has led to a huge problem with fraud, including staged accidents and exaggerated injury claims. Lawmakers and insurance industry officials put the cost of fraud at $1 billion a year, costs that are passed back to consumers with higher premiums. This figure is part of what inspired the PIP reforms that took effect on January 1, 2013.
Judge Lewis's order halting parts of the PIP reform questioned whether, given the recent changes, no-fault remained a reasonable alternative to rights granted and protected by the Florida State Constitution. While noting that others may disagree, he concluded that the system, with the so-called "reforms" in place, no longer met this critical requirement. The does not entirely dismantle the no-fault system, but it does block several of the new measures, including the exclusion of certain practitioners and the limit on payments for an injury that doesn't qualify as an "emergency medical condition." Gov. Rick Scott, has vowed to appeal the order. Such an action that may block the injunction, pending a hearing before the appellate court. At the same time, State Sen. Joe Negron, who sponsored last year's bill, has proposed ditching PIP for a new system, more like the state's former tort system and more akin to the systems in place in a majority of U.S. states.
Following the Issue, Protecting the Injured
In order to protect people injured in the Panhandle region, our Panama City personal injury law firm will continue to follow this matter. If you are injured in a car accident in Florida, you should seek prompt medical attention, but also reach out to an experienced attorney for legal counsel. Remember, at The Pittman Firm, an initial consultation is always free. In addition, most injury cases are handled on a contingency basis, so there is no fee unless you recover money.