A revamped Personal Injury Protection (PIP) law went into effect January 1. And with it comes a wave of controversy. That’s because the new statute does more to profit insurance companies than it does to protect injured drivers’ rights, say auto accident and personal injury lawyers with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell.
First enacted in the early 1970s, the PIP law, otherwise known as the Florida No-Fault law, required drivers of all vehicles with four or more wheels to purchase PIP coverage. That coverage would pay 80% of medical bills and 60% of lost wages up to $10,000 for all drivers involved in a car accident – regardless which driver was at fault.
With the start of the New Year, changes in the statute place multiple restrictions on drivers’ rights, making it more difficult for them to claim the benefits for which they paid, and easier for insurers to deny valid claims. A major point of contention is a requirement that a car accident victim receive initial treatment within 14 days after the date of the accident. That may work fine for victims with obvious and urgent injuries such as broken bones, punctured organs or internal bleeding. But it does little, if anything for the victim who suffers only soft tissue damage. Because soft tissue injuries don’t show up on X-ray images, they almost inevitably are missed by emergency room workers. Plus, victims may not feel pain from this type of injury for weeks or even months after the fact. And it can cause victims pain and difficulty for years.
The new Florida No-Fault law also cuts potential benefits. It caps payment for emergency medical conditions to $10,000 and non-emergency conditions to $2,500. It also limits payment for chiropractic treatment and disallows coverage for massage and acupuncture treatment altogether.
Although the statue calls for a 10 percent reduction in PIP premiums, it also gives insurance companies an easy out. They simply must provide a detailed explanation as to why they consider the rate cut detrimental to their business and they’re off the hook. Insurance companies also can compel victims to give an Examination Under Oath (EUO), a formal statement typically given with a court reporter present. Victims unable to attend an EUO meeting may find their claims denied, despite their validity.
If you or your dependents are injured in an auto collision, get medical treatment immediately, ask physicians to check for potential soft tissue injuries, and contact an experienced auto accident and personal injury lawyer. Jacksonville’s Harrell & Harrell specializes in dealing with insurance companies to secure your rightful benefits.