Florida Auto Insurance Reform Will Go to State Appeals Court

Part of the 2012 Florida auto insurance reform law regarding personal injury protection (PIP) was put on hold by a state court, but an appeal means the law will stand until an appeals court rules on it. The reform bill, HB 119, took effect on January 1 and restricted the ability of massage therapists, acupuncturists and chiropractors to have their services covered for people injured in car accidents. Supporters of the reform said that it would result in lower premiums for policy holders.

The chiropractors and other service providers were granted a temporary injunction by Judge Terry Lewis of the Second Circuit Court, located in Leon County. The injunction would have blocked the law temporarily, but the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation filed a notice of appeal, which has the effect of staying the injunction until the First District Court of Appeal makes a ruling.

Judge Lewis ruled against a provision of the new law that set a $2,500 limit for covered medical care if the injured party is not in an emergency medical situation. This is in contrast to the usual no-fault limit of $10,000. The law also put in place a 14-day deadline to seek treatment after a crash. Judge Lewis said that the law violates people’s rights under the Florida Constitution to have access to the courts and seek redress for their injuries.

HB 119 was a priority for Gov. Rick Scott, who supported the bill. The Governor’s office released a statement saying that the reform was intended to lower the high cost of auto insurance.

The service providers had earlier requested a temporary injunction in federal court, but were denied.

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud (CAIF) expressed disappointment in the court’s ruling. The group said that the purpose of the new law was to prevent fraudulent billing from service providers, which cause premiums to rise. Insurance fraud had increased in recent years, with a number of staged accidents in the Tampa and Miami areas.

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said that he is disappointed that PIP reform has not yet resulted in savings on insurance rates, but a CAIF spokesperson said that lower rates would come in future years, and only if the reform is upheld by the courts.

No-fault coverage has been in place in Florida since 1972. A driver’s insurer required to pay medical expenses up to $10,000 regardless of who is at fault.

Milla Tawnie writes for Orlando auto insurance and Orlando home insurance agency, the Florida Insurance Group. To learn more or to get auto and home insurance quotes, visit http://www.floridainsurance.com

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