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Debate Over PIP Auto Insurance Law Continues

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Posted on November 26, 2013

The legal battle over the Sunshine state’s no-fault auto insurance law is far from over.

According to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, Florida is one of 10 states that have personal injury protection – no fault – auto insurance, intended to provide injured drivers up to $10,000 in immediate medical coverage in lieu of establishing fault through the court system.

Last year, legislators amended the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law:

  • To be eligible for PIP medical benefits, persons injured in a motor vehicle accident must seek initial services and care from specified providers within 14 days. §627.736(1)(a).
  • Medical benefits up to $10,000 are available for “emergency medical conditions” diagnosed by specified providers, up to $2,500 for non-emergency medical conditions. § 627.736(1)(a)3.-4.
  • Licensed massage therapists and licensed acupuncturists are excluded from being reimbursed for medical benefits. § 627.736(1)(a)5.

The last point sparked a lawsuit by licensed healthcare providers that challenged the constitutionality of the law on the grounds of the constitutional right to court access. The lower court issued an injunction that prevented a 2012 reform of the state’s PIP law from going entirely into effect, explaining that the reason was not the potential economic harm to the providers, but “the constitutional right of citizens to seek redress in the courts if they are wrongfully injured. The medical providers are means to that end.” McCarty v. Myers, No. 1D13-1355 *6 (Fla. 1st DCA Oct. 23, 2013).

Florida’s First District Court of Appeals recently lifted the injunction based on the medical providers’ lack of standing, leaving the door open for a suit to be brought by actual accident victims and attorneys.

Still, debate continues over the 2012 reforms with some calling for scrapping no-fault law altogether.

Senate Banking and Insurance Committee Chair David Simmons (R-Altamonte) told the Insurance Journal that lawmakers should revisit the law in light of the First District Court of Appeals ruling.

Simmons held a hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 5 to receive input on draft legislation that would scrap the PIP law altogether and replace it with mandatory bodily injury coverage. The draft bill would require every driver to cover bodily injury coverage at a minimum of $25,000 per person instead of the PIP coverage.

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