A Billion-Dollar Question: Will Florida Take Away PIP Coverage?
One billion dollars. While it might sound like a Dr. Evil quote from one of the “Austin Powers” movies, it represents a real problem in Florida. Consumers are negatively affected by an estimated $1 billion per year in personal injury protection insurance fraud, according to The Associated Press.
Florida PIP Insurance
The massive scale of insurance fraud in Florida has spurred vigorous debate about whether to reform the state’s PIP system. Currently, drivers must carry at least $10,000 in insurance covering personal injury resulting from motor vehicle accidents. Injured motorists do not have to prove someone else was at fault.
The no-fault aspect of PIP insurance has given rise to staged auto accidents and other fraudulent methods of obtaining PIP coverage. In one common scam, the “panic stop,” a driver slams on the brakes, forcing a rear-end collision, according to the Gainesville Sun. The uninjured driver can collect up to $10,000 automatically. It is also possible that some clinics inflate costs of legitimate medical care or claim to provide unnecessary treatment to increase billing.
One Problem, Many Proposed Solutions
There are many links in the chain who suffer the consequences of PIP insurance fraud — consumers, elected officials, insurance companies and health care providers. Accordingly, there are various calls for reform. One proposal is a Florida House of Representatives bill requiring that those seeking PIP coverage go to the emergency room or a hospital-owned walk-in clinic, according to the AP. So far, a House subcommittee has approved the bill.
Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Horner (R-Kissimmee) wants to replace PIP insurance coverage with emergency payments coverage, according to The Palm Beach Post. His bill would allow payments to hospitals while reducing the amount treatment clinics and massage therapists could receive. Eliminating PIP coverage, while closing the loophole for fraudsters, might leave true injuries undercompensated.
Finally, Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate Robin Westcott is seeking to require rate filings that inform consumers about rate changes. Westcott believes this will hold insurance companies accountable and pass savings onto consumers.
Regardless of whether any of these proposals become law, the PIP system as it stands provides compensation for many legitimate injuries. Injured motorists have legal options including PIP and should contact a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who can help them obtain compensation after an accident.