Few motorists understand that the changing of the calendar to 2013 has left them with less insurance protection in the event of a serious or fatal traffic accident.
And people say our Tallahassee lawmakers can’t get anything done.
After years of effort (and plenty of money spread around the state capital by powerful lobbyists), the insurance industry finally succeeded in pushing through changes to Florida’s Personal Injury Protection Law. The law requires every motorist to carry $10,000 in coverage, which pays for the initial expenses of your crash, regardless of who is at fault. No surprise that limiting these payouts is at the top of the wish list for the insurance industry, which has long made claims of staged accidents and other fraud as reason for the limitations.
The $10,000 limit has been in place since 1972 and really should have been raised; today, you can spend $10,000 in the emergency room. Instead, lawmakers passed a series of limitations on how PIP funds may be spent by accident victims.
Acupuncture, massage therapy, and some other therapeutic uses are no longer covered. Additionally, only motorists diagnosed with an “emergency medical condition” within 14 days of an accident will be eligible for the $10,000. Everyone else will be limited to just $2,500.
“Floridians are in for a rude awakening,” Florida Consumer Action Network spokesman Bill Newton said. “Instead of measures aimed at preventing true fraud, we’re left with a bill that pads the pockets of big insurance companies.”
At least cutting down on all this “fraud” will reduce your insurance premiums, right?
The measure does (HB119) require insurers to lower rates by at least 10 percent following passage in October and another 25 percent in 2013. However, lawmakers inserted a clause permitting insurers to apply for an exemption. And, according to a recent article in the Miami Herald, most companies have already filed paperwork indicating their intentions to increase rates.
And PIP coverage only accounts for about 20 percent of your insurance premium – so even a 25 percent reduction in PIP costs equates to a 5 percent reduction in your overall insurance bill.
The Insurance Journal puts it this way: Florida’s new no-fault auto insurance law could result in savings of 14 percent up to as much as 24.6 percent for drivers’ on their personal injury protection premiums, although it remains to be seen whether those savings will reduce their overall insurance costs.
The only thing certain is that you will be without guaranteed access to PIP funds, which historically have been critical to meeting financial demands in the immediate aftermath of a serious or fatal crash.
The end result is that it’s even more critical to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer in the immediate aftermath of a traffic crash. Protecting your rights to all the PIP benefits to which you are entitled is just the first step in making a full recovery.
In fact, the Florida Justice Association, which represents trial lawyers, believes the likely outcome of the legislation will be that more and more of these cases will end up in court. No doubt the insurance industry will be busy pestering lawmakers about the high cost of litigation.
But if you’re busy waiting for the cost of your car insurance to go down, we think it’s going to be a long wait.
If you were involved in and accident and are confused about the new PIP laws call 954-961-5100 in Broward or 1-877-961-5100 in Florida for a Free Consultation.