Richard Parillo Sr.: Lawmakers ran over personal injury protection legislation

May 16, 2011


The following article was published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel on May 16, 2011:

Lawmakers ran over PIP Legislation

By Richard Parillo Sr.

Trial attorneys, doctors, chiropractors and advertisers trumped the best interests of Floridians when they stopped state legislation to reform personal injury protection. The session closed with no substantive changes to a system that’s being exploited through fraud and abuse.

Lobbyists for marketers and the legal and medical professions put intense pressure on legislators to maintain the status quo, even though it’s widely acknowledged that auto insurance fraud — especially PIP fraud — costs every driver an extra $50 a year. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation supported measures to reform the broken system.

One proposal would have capped trial attorneys’ fees, which can total tens of thousands of dollars even when a client is seeking only a few dollars from an auto insurer. Another bill would have given discounts for policyholders who agreed to be treated by doctors picked by insurers.

The bills stalled on April 25 and April 26, when doctors, lawyers, chiropractors and advertisers slammed into committee meetings and legislators’ offices. Their goal: Protect their wallets.

PIP has become a big, dirty business in Florida. Billboards and TV ads hint at financial jackpots from auto accident injuries by calling a toll-free number. Trial attorneys flood courthouses with lawsuits for PIP payments and then bill upwards of $300 an hour to handle routine paperwork.

Are they helping the average driver fight big, bad insurance companies? The facts are that advertisers don’t provide assistance; they route phone calls to the offices of trial attorneys. The attorneys represent clinics — not individuals — in 90 percent of all PIP-related lawsuits; the injured person gets nothing. Florida clinic operators game the system for every penny. They are also among the most corrupt in the country, with regular arrests for staging phony accidents and faking patient injuries.

The only losers in this road race for cash are drivers, who pay more and more each year for mandatory PIP coverage. The only reform measure that passed was included in HB1087, which provides for civil penalties for individuals convicted of receiving unlawful proceeds from participating in a false or fraudulent insurance claim.

The fight against PIP fraud may have failed in the Legislature, but it will be a priority in the executive branch. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is committed to the best interests of all drivers.

PIP reform will be an issue next March when the Legislature convenes. Let’s hope that our representatives and senators see the wisdom in passing measures that help honest drivers.

Richard Parrillo, Sr. is chairman and CEO of United Automobile Insurance Company, a property and casualty insurance company focusing on Florida and other states.

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