Governor touts Personal Injury Protection changes in his Second State of the State address

Jan 10, 2012

The following article was published in The Florida Current on January 10, 2012:

Governor touts PIP changes in his second State of the State address

By Christine Jordan Sexton

Although the House and Senate appear worlds apart, Florida Gov Rick Scott urged lawmakers in his State of the State address Tuesday to tackle personal injury protection and make the rates more affordable for Florida motorists.

In prepared remarks, Scott said premium increases for PIP are increasing by 30 percent and that those rates cannot be sustained.

“Floridians cannot afford another year of fraud and abuse and the costs that come with it,” Scott said.

Scott’s remarks were music to Rep. Jim Boyd’s ears. The Bradenton Republican again is taking the lead in the House toward passing a series of changes to the system, many of them sought by the insurance industry.

Boyd downplayed the differences between his bill, HB 119, and SB 1860, a bill released by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, on Monday. 

“They  have their ideas and we have ours,” said Boyd, who had not read Negron’s bill in depth. “We’ll go down our path, he’ll go down his, and hopefully as we move ahead, we’ll find some common ground, some consistency in the language of our bills that will really make a difference in the end for the consumers of Florida.”

The Senate measure lacks a number of issues that are important to the insurance industry, including caps on attorneys’ fees and establishing law to allow carriers to conduct examinations under oath. 

The House bill would cap attorneys fees by limiting them to a maximum of $15,000. Negron’s bill would change how attorneys’ fees in PIP work by making them mirror the fees that apply to civil cases when an offer is made. Under the Negron PIP bill, if a defendant makes an offer that is not accepted within 30 days and the ultimate judgement is one of no liability or the judgement obtained is at least 25 percent of the offer, the court sets off costs and attorneys’ fees as part of the award.

Conversely, if a plaintiff files for a demand of judgement that is not accepted and the plaintiff recovers a judgement that is 25 percent greater than the offer, then the plaintiff can recover reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees.

Boyd said the idea had “merit” but that the House thinks that PIP is meant to be a self-executing no-fault system where attorneys are not required.

Meanwhile, a  proposed committee substitute to HB 119 has been drafted and will be acted on by the House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee on Wednesday, Boyd said. 

The PCB maintains a no-fault system, requiring $10,000 in coverage, but there are changes. The PCB would replace PIP with Emergency Care Coverage. ECC would provide coverage for emergency transport, emergency care at a hospital, hospital inpatient care, and care rendered within 72 hours after an accident for an emergency medical condition. Care and services must be rendered by a physician, dentist, physician assistant or a licensed nurse practitioner.

PIP is expected to be the No. 1 insurance issue as this legislative session proceeds, and it is a priority for Scott as well as Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. The two have toured Tampa and other areas of the state where PIP fraud rings run rampant, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Boyd said he expected Scott’s office to “have some input” on PIP before the session ends. He also said he would fight until the end to pass a bill: “It’s a tough issue. Fraud is making a handful of people a lot of money. It’s a tough fight, but I’m willing to fight it.”

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