Fort Lauderdale Auto Accident Attorney: PIP Insurance Changes Have Failed to Save Consumers Money and Should Be Reversed

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Changes to Florida's Personal Injury Protection (PIP) law, which took effect this year, have failed to deliver promised savings to consumers and under sharp review, both in the Florida Legislature and in courts, where the changes have been ruled unconstitutional, states Fort Lauderdale auto accident lawyer Lisa S. Levine. Levine says the Legislature should act to reverse the changes.

"These changes were intended to herald in a new era of cheaper insurance rates, but, as a Fort Lauderdale auto accident attorney, all I've seen is accident victims unable to get the treatment they need," said Lisa S. Levine.

Significant changes to Florida's personal injury protection law appear to be on the ropes, with the Legislature considering their repeal and a court in Tallahassee ruling the changes unconstitutional. The Florida Legislature should, in this session, reverse the changes, which have failed to save consumers money and have hurt victims' ability to recover, said Lisa S. Levine, Fort Lauderdale auto accident lawyer.

"These changes have hurt the consumer, both in their pocketbook and in their ability to get back on their feet after an accident," Levine said. "The Legislature needs to move forward with repeal."

The Legislature appeared poised to repeal the changes this session, with both House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz publicly expressing concerns about the effects of the changes ("Gaetz wants explanations on PIP reform," Tampa Tribune, Feb, 20, 2013"). Both can move forward with legislation before the session's May 3rd end. However, the efforts appear to have stalled, with the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee posting a vote on a bill to repeal the PIP law entirely (Insurance Journal, "Calls for Repeal of Florida PIP Turn Silent; Next Step Uncertain," April 11, 2013).

Florida drivers are required to carry at least $10,000 in PIP coverage. PIP covers drivers in an accident, regardless of who was at fault. It covers the policy holder, the policy holder's children, members of the policy holder's household and passengers in the policy holder's vehicle who do not carry PIP themselves. If the policy holder is in a pedestrian or cycling accident with a motor vehicle, PIP covers the expenses.

The Legislature passed, and Gov. Rick Scott signed, changes to PIP regulations in 2012. Most of the major changes went into effect January 1, 2013. Under the changes, drivers are still required to carry a minimum of $10,000 in coverage. However, even though the policy holder is still paying for $10,000 in coverage, the insurance will only pay out a maximum of $2,500 for an accident, unless a doctor, osteopathic physician, dentist, supervised physician's assistant or advanced registered nurse practitioner deems an injury an "emergency medical condition."

Policy holders must now also start medical treatment within 14 days of the accident for PIP to cover anything at all.

The Legislature passed the changes to address instances of so-called fraud, where people were allegedly faking accidents. The reduction in fraud cases were supposed to be passed to the consumers. That hasn't happened, Levine said.

"These changes were intended to herald in a new era of cheaper insurance rates, but, as a Fort Lauderdale auto accident attorney, all I've seen is accident victims unable to get the treatment they need," Levine said.

It can be very difficult for accident victims to seek treatment in the short two-week window, especially those that have injuries like whiplash, which can seem minor at first but have severe effects that can disable a person, Levine said. Moreover, hospital, doctor and therapy bills can be overwhelming, even for something that wouldn't be classified as an "emergency" condition.

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis blocked part of the law, saying it doesn't give people access to courts (The News-Press, "Judge blocks part of PIP law," March 21, 2013).

"I hope, for the sake of Florida drivers, that these changes will come to an end soon, and I suggest that the Legislature take the opportunity to end it," Levine said.

Lisa S. Levine, of Lisa S. Levine, P.A., is a Fort Lauderdale auto accident attorney who represents the victims of motor vehicle accidents.

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