Under Florida insurance law, vehicle drivers are required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance to cover medical expenses in the case of an accident and injury. PIP is meant to be an alternative to a legal liability system, covering the driver under the state's no fault accident laws. A new PIP law, one aspect of reforms made to the law last year, has excluded acupuncturists, massage therapists, and chiropractors from covered medical treatments. Those groups of medical providers filed a case against the law itself, which Judge Terry Lewis at the Second Circuit Court recently decided in Myers v. McCarty Case No. 2013 CA 73.
These medical providers claim the law threatens their business viability. The new law provides for $10,000 in emergency medical care but only $2,500 for non-emergency injuries, which is much of what chiropractors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists do for patients with more chronic conditions. Judge Lewis had granted this group an injunction blocking this part of the law, and in this most recent decision he revisited his injunction and decided to uphold it. Judge Lewis said he understood the difficulties from insurance companies and Florida regulators, but that he continued to feel a temporary injunction was appropriate relief to remain in effect. He highlighted that while he also understood the concerns of the medical providers, his main motivation in continuing the injunction is for Floridians' right of access to the courts. Judge Lewis said, "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."
In response to this recent ruling upholding the injunction, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation filed a motion to expedite review of the decision at the First District Court of Appeals. They brought questions about the validity of Judge Lewis' decision. The motion states that Judge Lewis ignored a Florida Supreme Court precedent that states a law has a presumption of constitutionality unless it is beyond all reasonable doubt that it conflicts with the constitution. The motion also claims that Judge Lewis' injunction gave no indication of what insurance regulators are supposed to do, only blocking that part of the law and leaving policyholders in an unclear position.
It seems Florida lawmakers are happy to leave this decision up to the courts. Despite being central to Governor Rick Scott's agenda last year, it seems the state government does not want to confront PIP reform again this year.
With the issue in this case clearly being framed to preserve access to the courts for Florida victims, if you have been injured in an accident and are having a problem with your insurance provider, contact a Florida insurance attorney to learn about your options as soon as possible. Under Florida law, if you proceed with a case and you succeed. the attorney's fees will automatically be the responsibility of the insurance company. So no matter the size of your claim, you would get to keep the court award and not have to worry about paying lawyer's fees.
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