Okay, a quick show of hands. How many of you actually know what PIP means? Probably not very many – but you should. The acronym stands for Personal Injury Protection, and it’s a law that is a by-product of Florida being a no-fault state. It was put in place to make sure that Floridians injured in car accidents are able to get the treatment that they need immediately rather than having to wait for cases to be decided through the court system. Sounds like a good thing, right? Well, unfortunately there have been some recent changes to the law that help insurers at the expense of regular people trying to recover from injuries.
How Has PIP Changed?
There have been several changes to the PIP law over the years since it was first enacted, and most of them have been made to please insurance companies. But the latest changes, which were set to go into effect in January of 2013 but were put on hold due to legal battles, have only recently started showing up.
First let’s talk about how things used to be up until recently:
- Any policyholders injured in an auto crash could receive up to $10,000 for medical treatment
- It was possible to file a claim for an injury at any time
- You could seek out help from any licensed medical professional, including chiropractors, acupuncturists, and others
According to some sources, these rules led to significant insurance fraud throughout the state, which is why the legislature decided to make changes. The problem, though, is that many of these changes can’t help but hurt honest Floridians who were injured and need medical care – care that they now may not receive. And perhaps even worse is the fact that the new law doesn’t require insurers to tell their policyholders about the modifications to the benefits they can receive. It’s almost like the legislators want to make sure that everything is done quietly to avoid arguments from regular Floridians.
So, what’s changing in the PIP law?
- Despite having to carry $10,000 in PIP insurance, most policyholders will only be eligible for up to $2,500 of coverage for medical expenses
- The higher $10,000 of coverage will be reserved for those with “serious injuries” (an amount, which, by the way, wouldn’t even begin to cover a truly serious injury at today’s prices)
- In order to receive immediate attention, policyholders first have to provide certification from a medical professional such as a doctor, osteopathic physician, dentist, physician assistant, or advanced registered nurse practitioner, which doesn’t sound very “immediate”
- Anyone who sustains an injury now has to seek treatment within 14 days; if they can only get in to see their doctor in three weeks instead of two, the insurer doesn’t have to reimburse them for anything
- Acupuncturists and massage therapists are no longer covered under the PIP law, taking away a form of lower-cost medical care that many find helpful
Where Does This Leave Injured Florida Motorists?
With fewer options and more responsibility. Basically, anyone hurt in a car accident – even if it seems minor – needs to make sure that they get to a doctor within 14 days. Otherwise, the only way for you to receive the compensation you need will be to hire a personal injury attorney and file a lawsuit. Unfortunately, because court cases take time, even those who ultimately “win” will likely be losing out on treatment at a time when they need it the most. Call a good lawyer, certainly, but if you want things to change, contact your representative and tell them what you really think about the changes to the law.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Lawlor Winston White & Murphy. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.”