In 2013, new Personal Injury Protection (PIP) legislation will take full effect, placing limits on how long automobile accident victims have to seek treatment and the kinds of treatments covered. The supposed motivation behind these major changes to the state’s no-fault auto insurance was to reduce insurance rates for Florida car owners. Whether or not the legislation results in this desired effect – a topic still being debated by politicians, insurers and the media – there is no question that the rights of injured accident victims will be adversely affected.
Limited coverage and lower payouts
The theory behind the 2012 legislative changes was that they would limit fraud and abuse in the PIP system and these reductions would lead to the cost of no-fault insurance going down. The reality is that these changes have the potential to hurt genuine victims seeking reasonable treatment. The specific changes that most affect accident victims call for the following:
A 14-day limit on how long accident victims have to seek treatment for their injuries
Limits on payouts for whatever are deemed non-emergency medical services to $2,500, a significant reduction from the prior $10,000 limit
Removal of massage therapy and acupuncture as covered treatment options
Considering that many injuries stemming from car accidents don’t manifest immediately, such as the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries, the two week limit on treatment is questionably sufficient. While the legislation includes certain criteria for determining whether a medical service is non-emergency, room remains for insurance companies to impose their own opinions. And even though research exists that points to massage therapy and acupuncture as viable treatment options for whiplash and other common auto accident injuries, victims may no longer be able to afford these services.
It should be noted that despite these changes, the associated expectation that insurance companies drop their PIP rates 10 percent by October 2012 and 25 percent by January 2014 are not requirements, because insurers have an option to simply explain why they don’t think they should.