Lawmakers don’t want to abandon no-fault auto insurance in 2014

in Uncategorized by

Florida “no-fault” auto insurance is not going away anytime soon, as lawmakers resist abandoning the reforms pushed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Sen. David Simmons, chair of Senate Banking and Insurance, feels the state should abandon the no-fault system, now almost 40 years old, before the courts strike down Scott’s 2012 reforms. But he doesn’t expect to introduce any measures in the legislative session starting Tuesday.

“You can be assured that if there is some catalyst, such as a court ruling or that the insurers are able to build a coalition to get some movement on getting rid of PIP,” the Altamonte Springs Republican told Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida, “you can be assured that I’ll be the first one to file a bill.”

“But I’m not going to do anything until there is a greater consensus among both the stakeholders and the legislators,” he added.

Although the Florida Supreme Court is considering a challenge to the law, Simmons believes that “catalyst” may be as much as two years away.

Both Scott and CFO Jeff Atwater would welcome the delay since they were championed the 2012 reforms, and have doubled down on their support of the changes, enacted to reduce rampant fraud and rising premiums.

“Two years ago, PIP premiums were expected to increase by an average of 29 percent in Florida, and we fought to keep the cost of living low for Florida families,” according to a statement released by the governor and reported in the News Service. “That’s why we worked to pass legislation to lower PIP rates by increasing licensing standards for medical clinics, establishing strong penalties for those who commit PIP fraud, and creating a statewide anti-fraud task force.”

Under PIP, drivers involved in crashes can get as much as $10,000 for medical costs, regardless of fault. But the changes would not affect most drivers, and only impacts recoveries post-crash.

More than 70 percent of Florida motorists have some sort of bodily injury coverage, the state Office of Insurance Regulation estimates.

Industry leaders believe the 2012 laws should be given time to take hold, Turner writes.

The 2012 law — an effort to keep the no-fault system afloat — required insurance companies to lower rates on coverage for personal-injury protection. Individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes must seek treatment within 14 days, and capping benefits for emergency medical conditions at $10,000, and $2,500 on non-emergency conditions.

A Leon County circuit court found the law illegally limits services from chiropractors and prevents accident victims from using PIP coverage for treatment by acupuncturists and massage therapists.

The First District Court of Appeal reversed the ruling in October, saying the plaintiffs could not use a fictitious “Jane Doe” injured motorist, and need to provide a “factual” motorist been harmed by the law, before proceeding with the case

If the Supreme Court rules favorably, the dispute returns to the lower courts. If justices side with the state, challengers will have no choice but to reintroduce the case with named plaintiffs.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.