Florida Personal Injury Protection Debate Examines Auto Insurance Companies' Agenda

While every Florida car insurance holder must pay for personal injury protection (PIP), auto insurance companies would like to see this no-fault law ride off into the sunset and expire on October 1 st of this year, a change which an Insurance Journal story said would save them $350 million.

Florida's Personal Injury Protection law covers up to $10,000-80 percent for medical expenses, 60 percent for loss of income and a $5,000 death benefit-for all insured drivers regardless of who's at fault during a car accident. Instituted in 1971, this Florida no-fault auto insurance law was created with the noble goal of providing medical care to people who do not have health insurance and are injured in a car accident.

Despite being implemented more than 35 years ago, this Florida personal injury protection law has continued to be of great service to people injured in car accidents nowadays. Take the case of Sarah Capps, who suffered a sore shoulder and back after a 2004 Florida car accident.

Transitioning into a new job at the time, Capps did not yet have health insurance at the time of accident; a scary reality when she later learned that she had really sustained six herniated discs during the accident. Capps said that without this Florida no-fault auto insurance law, she would have never been able to get treatment for her injuries.

While the Florida PIP law has proven beneficial to people like Capps, auto insurance companies have complained that the current system is wrought with fraud which ultimately drives up their costs for insurers and consumers.

In the perfect world of these insurance companies, this Florida personal injury protection law would give way to a system where lawsuits would determine fault and who should pay. In other words, auto insurance companies would rather go to court with their high-priced attorneys and try to minimize paying for damages only when they have to. Furthermore, these insurance companies would like to pass their $350 million bill onto other sectors, most notably the health industry and the taxpayer.

Florida Senate Banking and Insurance Committee Rebuffs Insurance Company Claims about Personal Injury Protection Law

The Florida Senate Banking and Insurance Committee recently shot down insurance company claims that the state's personal injury protection law is beyond repair when it unanimously approved SB 1880 on March 27 th.

While attempting to reform problems with PIP, this bill would extend the law until January 2009. As part of an effort to somewhat alleviate insurance company concerns, this bill would put a cap on medical reimbursements to hospitals, doctors and clinics that treat car accident victims.

Despite this compromise, auto insurance companies want the Florida personal injury protection law to be no more. They say that the current PIP system is abused by greedy businessmen who operate shady clinics and run up their costs through various means to get to the $10,000 payout limit. Insurance companies point out how the Florida Department of Financial Services received more than 3,100 PIP fraud tips leading to more than 300 arrests and 200 convictions in 2005-2006.

While proponents of extending the Florida personal injury protection law agree that there is a need to reform abuses of this system, they caution about the serious implications of getting rid of this law, especially for people who really need it. Hospitals, doctors and health providers are claiming that auto insurance companies merely want to pass their bill onto a health industry already struggling with high rates.

Doctors and hospitals also refute insurance company claims that getting rid of the Florida personal injury protection law would save Florida consumers $250 a year. They specifically say that the $350 million used to treat as many as 110,000 patients injured in car accidents would still have to come from somewhere since Florida emergency rooms can not turn people away by law. Without a Florida personal injury protection law, this money would likely come from higher health insurance costs and possibly higher taxes in hospital districts which treat car accident victims without health insurance.

As chiropractor Mike Stangherlin said in a Sun-Sentinel story, allowing the Florida no-fault law to expire has the potential to seriously "impact people financially, physically, and emotionally."

The Lesson to be Learned in this Florida Personal Injury Protection Debate

Ultimately, this intention to get rid of the Florida no-fault auto insurance law is just another prime example of auto insurance companies doing whatever it takes to protect what matters most to them: their bottom line. Whether it's this case or the recent CNN story detailing how AllState and State Farm used minor car accident claims as a means to save millions of dollars, these instances once again depict how insurance companies are not your friends.

If you've been hurt in a car accident or suffered any other personal injury and have been contacted by an insurance company, don't take them for their words. Speak to a personal injury attorney in your area as soon as possible to ensure that you make a decision which is in your best interests and not those of the insurance company. Get started by filling out our free personal injury case evaluation form, and we'll help you connect with a local personal injury attorney within minutes.

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