In June, we wrote about Florida’s no-fault auto insurance laws. Recently, Florida lawyers asked a judge to declare unconstitutional the 2012 changes to this auto insurance law, The Palm Beach Post reports.
Specifics of the Case
The plaintiff in the case is Yesenia Boatswain. Boatswain is a policyholder with Garrison Property and Casualty Insurance Co., a subsidiary of United Services Automobile Association.
Specifically, the plaintiff’s attorneys are arguing that the reduction of nonemergency Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) benefits from $10,000 to $2,500 is unconstitutional, as Florida drivers have been forced to give up traditional tort remedies in exchange for the nominal payment of their medical bills.
Florida is one of a minority of states that have no-fault auto insurance systems. Florida drivers must buy $10,000 of PIP insurance to cover injuries, regardless of how much health insurance they have. However, as the Sun Sentinel reports, Florida drivers must jump through some hoops to take advantage of their PIP policies
For example, a driver must seek medical treatment within 14 days following an auto accident, and that initial treatment must be provided in a hospital or in a licensed clinic or by a select group of professionals. Additionally, to qualify for the $10,000, a driver’s injuries must be diagnosed as an emergency medical condition, while the maximum benefit for nonemergency treatment is $2,500. Massage therapy and acupuncture are also no longer covered
Supporters of the 2012 overhaul of Florida’s car insurance law say the new law is helping curb fraudulent claims—especially those claims seeking maximum insurance payoffs for nonemergency treatment—thereby reducing premiums. They contend that the new law is in line with public policy, as Florida’s PIP provides emergency treatment for those who really need it
The jury is still out, so to speak, on the effectiveness of the overhaul. According to a January report by The Palm Beach Post, PIP rates decreased 13.2 percent at the state’s top 20 auto insurers since the 2012 changes. However, that was below the targeted 25 percent reduction, and 12 of the top 20 carriers actually raised overall rates.
Not Everyone’s Excited About It
Opponents of the overhaul, including the plaintiff’s attorneys in the case currently before the Miami-Dade County Court, argue that the new law limits consumers’ rights. They say the whole premise of the PIP system—that drivers give up access to the courts in exchange for having their medical bills paid quickly—has crumbled as a result of the overhaul. The constitutionality of Florida’s PIP statute was premised upon that quid pro quo, but non-emergency benefits are now so low that the quid pro quo is essentially gone, they contend.
This case is not the first challenge to Florida’s revamped car insurance law. Monitoring this case and its outcome will be interesting for Florida drivers, insurance companies, medical professionals and other stakeholders.
If you have been injured in an auto accident, contact an experienced attorney at Reed & Reed. With offices in Brandon and Tampa, we can help you understand Florida’s no-fault auto insurance laws and begin the process of recovery.
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