As many motorists continue to endure the ever-increasing auto insurance premiums, the topic of PIP law reform in Florida has gained traction. In 2012, Florida Governor Rick Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater launched an initiative calling for massive reforms to Florida’s no-fault personal injury protection insurance. Colossal insurance fraud schemes, notorious throughout the metropolitan areas of southern Florida, are the driving factor behind skyrocketing auto insurance premiums.
In early 2013, Governor Rick Scott’s campaign met initial success as lawmakers signed into effect Florida Statute 627.736. Florida accident victims must now meet additional criteria before benefits are paid.
Here is an overview of the changes to Florida’s PIP law:
In February, shortly after the statute was enacted, second Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis filed temporary injunction partially blocking the exclusion of massage and acupuncture therapy. Following pressure from insurance regulators, the injunction was revisited, but upheld, in April.
Many supporters of PIP law reform were outraged and disagree with Judge Lewis.
“We are highly disappointed with this injunction, which temporarily invalidates the crux of the reform and thereby reopens the door to the fraud and abuse that the law was designed to counteract,” said Donovan Brown, Florida counsel for state relations for Property Casualty Insurers Association.
The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud also expressed its frustrations with the ruling. The organization states the injunction ignores the harm done by fraudulent medical providers that initially led to the law changes.
“Curbing crooked medical providers in this manner is a reasonable way to reduce runaway fraud,” said Dennis Jay, executive director of the coalition. “Its constitutional validity has a strong basis.”
Judge Lewis backed his decision to uphold the injunction. Skeptics are critical of the judge’s receptiveness to opposition brought on by massage and acupuncture medical providers. However, he said, the injunction is foremost to protect individuals’ rights to access the courts.
“The reason for issuing the injunction was to protect the constitutional right and prevent the potential harm to citizens injured in auto accidents who, under the present PIP statute, may not receive necessary medical care,” Lewis stated.
The Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) filed a motion with Florida’s First District Court of Appeal seeking an expedited review of the temporary injunction and plans on pursuing any available legal options geared at overturning the judge’s ruling.