Last year, we wrote about the effect the new personal injury protection (PIP) law would be likely to have on a number of key players: insurance companies, law enforcement, Florida citizens, lawyers, and certain health care practitioners. Here is an update on the law.
Key provisions of the new PIP law
Let’s first remind ourselves of some of the most significant changes under the new PIP law:
Emergency medical condition. In order to receive benefits worth the maximum of $10,000, you need to receive a determination from a physician, dentist, physician’s assistant or registered nurse practitioner within 14 days of the accident, stating that your condition was a medical emergency. This condition exists if failure to receive medical care would lead to serious jeopardy to your health, serious organ dysfunction, or serious impairment of your bodily functions. The reduced level of $2,500 in personal injury benefits is available for lesser medical conditions.
Long form accident report. In every case of an auto accident causing death, injury or pain, involving a commercial vehicle, or requiring the use of a tow truck, law enforcement officers are required to file a long form accident report.
Reduction in insurance company billing. Insurance companies were required to reduce their billing for PIP by 10 percent from October 2012 and by 25 percent in 2014.
Massage and acupuncture. Massage therapists and acupuncturists do not qualify as PIP providers, and cannot receive payment for treating people injured in auto accidents.
Chiropractors. The law recognizes chiropractors as PIP providers, but cannot certify a patient as having an emergency medical condition.
Is the new law unconstitutional?
Responding to a legal challenge against the new law brought by massage therapists, acupuncturists and chiropractors, a judge suspended parts of the new law through a temporary injunction. The lawsuit focused on the fact that the first two types of practitioners are no longer able to receive payment for treating auto accident victims, while chiropractors are not empowered to certify an emergency medical condition, reducing the amount they can bill to $2,500.
The judge ruled that the new requirement for an auto accident victim to be in an emergency medical condition before being able to claim their full personal injury protection is a restriction on the constitutional right of access to court. The judge added that the changes to the PIP law make it no longer a reasonable alternative to a tort-based system.
Have insurance premiums fallen?
A key aim for the new law is the reduction in the number of fraudulent insurance claims, thereby reducing the cost of insurance. Although the law requires insurers to reduce their billings, it also provides the right for insurers to petition for exclusion from the requirement. Empirical evidence shows that auto insurance rates have not fallen since the new law began, and in many cases have gone up.