The Florida First District Court of Appeals recently issued a ruling in favor of the Office of Insurance Regulation, and lifted the injunction that has stood in the way of enforcing several changes to the state’s personal injury protection (PIP) laws established earlier this year. The amended PIP laws rolled out last January, and have been stuck in limbo as appellate courts heard opinions from lawmakers and personal injury lawyers in Florida, before making their final decision.
With the injunction lifted, persons injured in an accident must seek treatment within two weeks of the event, according to F.S.A. 627.736. PIP benefits are now limited to $2,500 unless the injured party suffers an “emergency medical condition,” qualified as a medical condition that is manifested by acute, severe symptoms of pain. Doctors must determine that without immediate medical attention, injured persons with emergency medical conditions would suffer serious impairment to bodily functions or organs, and would compromise their good health. Chiropractors cannot determine whether a patient has an emergency medical condition.
The new laws also disqualify injured parties who claim to suffer from severe pain, without medical proof of injury or jeopardized health, from receiving the full $10,000 in PIP benefits. PIP coverage will no longer include massage therapy, acupuncture, or any treatment from licensed massage therapists or acupuncture physicians provided to persons injured in a car accident.
A lawsuit filed by an acupuncture physician, a chiropractor, and two massage therapists claimed that the 2012 PIP Act was in violation of the Florida Constitution, because the Act requires Florida citizens to purchase $10,000 in PIP coverage, but that coverage may not provide them with the care they need. Because the PIP Act has cut off coverage for treatments from acupuncturists and massage therapists, licensed professionals have been losing business, and unable to treat injured clients or receive payments from their insurance coverage.
The appellate court found that the PIP Act did not violate the constitution, ruling that a loss of income was an insufficient basis for their access to the court claim. The court reversed the injunction sought by the business owners, and ruled that the real parties of interest were not the merchants who had lost business, but the persons injured in car accidents who were unable to seek adequate care as a result of the 2012 PIP Act.
The 2012 PIP Act will be enforced following the Appellate Court’s ruling, and personal injury lawyers in Florida say that patients and treatment centers will need to adapt to adequately comply with the new laws. Drivers and passengers who have been injured in a car accident should be working with their primary care physicians to determine the best course of treatments for injuries and trauma.
The personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of David I. Fuchs represent Florida residents who have been injured in car accidents or other vehicle-related incidents and rely on personal injury protection for compensation and restitution.