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Florida Court Affirms Injunction Against Parts Of New PIP Law

Posted in Insurance Law,News on June 3, 2013

A Florida court has affirmed his injunction stopping parts of the state’s new car accident no-fault insurance law on the grounds that it infringes on a drivers’ access to the court system. The State of Florida is predictably going to appeal.

Second Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis upheld his initial ruling in the matter of Myers v. McCarty, Case No. 2012 CA 73 that was brought by chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists.

The therapists and acupuncturists argued the new law threatened their businesses by excluding them from the approved list of PIP providers and preventing them from receiving PIP payments for treating injured motorists.

Chiropractors went on to argue the new PIP law unfairly limited their payments since the law placed a cap on medical coverage as drivers with emergency conditions are given $10,000 in coverage while other motorists with non-emergency injuries only receive $2,500 in coverage.

Judge Lewis, in his initial ruling, found the bill’s limitations in medical coverage no longer made PIP a “reasonable alternative” to a tort system. On revisiting this case, Lewis said he is still sensitive to the medical providers’ concerns, but that his injunction is primarily to protect individuals’ rights to access the court system.

The Judge said that “The reason for issuing the injunction was to protect the constitutional right and prevent the potential harm to citizens injured in auto accidents who, under the present PIP statute, may not receive necessary medical care,”

The Judge also said that after balancing that against the difficulties the injunction created for regulators and insurers, he still found that the “equities tip in favor of allowing the temporary injunction to remain in effect.”

Florida’s counsel for state relations for Property Insurers Association, said the association is disappointed in the ruling and what it means for the PIP law and argued as the State and it’s friends in the insurance industry have always done that this law is designed to eliminate fraud and abuse and that this ruling will open the floodgates to fraudulent claims once again.

In response to the court’s injunction, the Office of Insurance Regulation filed a motion with Florida’s First District Court of Appeal seeking an expedited review of the temporary injunction.

The filing is not a response to the issues raised in the Myers case, but instead addresses the validity of the judge’s injunction.

The motion states that the court ignored the Florida Supreme Court’s standard that statutes have a presumption of constitutionality unless it appears beyond all reasonable doubt to be in conflict with a state constitutional provision.

The motion gave no indication on what actions state regulators must do to comply with the injunction. “The injunction order did not suddenly remove the provisions from law; it sought to enjoin the OIR from enforcing them. How that will affect millions of motorists and their existing policies is…unclear,” according to the court paper. Governor Scott has vowed to fight the ruling.

The Florida legislature seems content with allowing the court system to resolve this matter as opposed to coming up with a fair and balanced alternative that both medical providers and the insurance industry could find palatable. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee had considered eliminating the No-Fault system and replacing it with a tort system that would require all drivers to carry bodily injury and property damage coverage. A bill to do just that was introduced but died in committee for at least this year over issues such as whether the new bill would include tort reform and a med-pay component.