PIP Challenge Over….For Now
The Florida Supreme Court has announced that it will not hear an appeal relating to the 2012 revisions to Florida’s Personal Injury Protection law. This means the reforms remain in effect. The reforms have been taken into account in insurers’ rate filings, so the Supreme Court’s decision keeps the legal reforms in line with the mandated reductions.
The 2012 law sought to curb increases in PIP rates by requiring people involved in auto crashes to seek treatment within 14 days and by allowing up to $10,000 in benefits for emergency care, while limiting non-emergency care to $2,500. The law also limited or excluded services by accupuncturists, massage therapists, and chiropractors.
Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled in March 2013 that the reforms unlawfully prevented accident victims from using PIP coverage to pay for treatment by acupuncturists and massage therapists and impermissibly limited the services from chiropractors. Judge Lewis considered that the PIP system acts as a substitute for injured persons’ access to courts, but erosions in PIP coverage over the years, most notably in the 2012 reforms, tipped the balance against injured persons far enough that the PIP system no longer serves as a viable alternative to the court system.
The First District Court of Appeal, however, found that that plaintiffs had not shown an actual instance of an injured person’s having his or her right to access the courts infringed upon. The court indicated that the providers complaining of the new law needed to show that actual accident victims have been affected by it. The district court therefore lifted an injunction entered by Judge Lewis, and the PIP law remained in effect as the case was appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.
Based upon the Supreme Court’s refusal to take up the issue, the PIP reforms remain in effect. As noted by Commissioner Kevin McCarty, “nothing changes” with respect to the PIP revisions. It is likely, however, that in the coming months and years, other cases involving actual injured persons will wind their way through the courts and eventually result in a decisions on the merits of the PIP reforms.