March 20--A Leon County judge has issued a partial injunction against the state's PIP auto insurance law, putting at least a temporary stop sign in front of one of Gov. Rick Scott's top legislative priorities of the past year.
State officials plan to appeal.
Circuit Judge Terry P. Lewis granted an injunction on parts of the law that require a finding of an emergency medical condition as a prerequisite for payment of Personal Injury Protection benefits and that prohibit payment for services provided by accupuncturists, chiropractors and massage therapists.
"It's huge," said attorney Luke Lirot, representing groups opposing the law on constitutional grounds. "It affects every citizen in the state of Florida." He says the law unfairly shut out many medical providers.
The state's Office of Insurance Regulation plans to file an appeal, probably by Friday, spokeswoman Amy Bogner said.
"The appeal will stay the order, but only until the District Court of Appeals rules on this issue," Bogner said.
The matter could eventually wind up before the state's Supreme Court.
"We're very disappointed," said Charles Grimsley, chairman and president of the Florida Property and Casualty Association, which represents a number of auto and home insurers based in the state. "What the law was meant to do is slow down the $1 billion PIP fraud industry."
Florida requires a driver to carry $10,000 in PIP coverage, which is designed to cover his own medical costs, even if he is at fault. Scott and other supporters of the new law said it was designed to reduce the amount insurers pay out for fraud and staged accidents.
A targeted 10 percent savings on PIP premiums by the start of 2013 wound up being closer to an average of 1 percent, records show, though many insurers say it's too soon to measure the full impact on consumer premiums. By 2014, insurers are supposed to reduce PIP rates 25 percent or explain to regulators why not.
The law says to qualify for the full $10,000 benefit, treatment must begin within 14 days for an emergency medical condition, involving care from such providers as an ambulance, hospital, physician or dentist.
Non-emergency benefits are limited to $2,500, and massage or acupuncture are shut out of the PIP system under the law.
(c)2013 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)
Visit The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.) at www.palmbeachpost.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services