Senate and House Personal Injury Protection proposals could be on a collision course

Jan 9, 2012

The following article was published in The Florida Current on January 9, 2012:

Senate and House PIP proposals could be on a collision course

By Christine Jordan Sexton

The House and Senate are deeply divided on the breadth of changes that need to be made to the state’s personal injury protection program.

Sen. Joe Negron’s long awaited PIP bill was released on Monday and it contains precious little that is important to the insurance industry, which is spearheading the changes. The Palm City Republican’s bill does not cap attorneys’ fees  as the insurance industry has advocated and it does not reinstate language that would allow for examinations under oath. Insurers use EUOs to ferret out fraudulent claims, insurance representatives say.

Negron’s bill, SB 1860, requires the Office of Insurance Regulation to conduct a comprehensive personal injury protection data call and publish the results by January 2015. 

The OIR must ask carriers to report information about the quantity of the PIP claims; type or nature of claimants; amount and type of PIP benefits paid and expenses incurred; type and quantity of and charges for medical benefits; attorneys fees related to bringing and defending actions; direct earned premiums; licensed drivers and accidents; and fraud and enforcement.

The bill also requires the Department of Financial Services — which houses the Office of Insurance Regulation — to establish an Automobile Insurance Fraud Strike Force. The board is allowed to solicit and collect money to help its operations.

Specific to attorneys fees, SB 1860 would apply the same regulations that currently apply to civil actions where an offer of judgement is made.  Under that law 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.

The main House vehicle will be discussed at a House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee  Committee on Wednesday. The committee is expected to discuss a new proposal that would abolish health care clinics altogether and require those in automobile accidents to go only to a hospital for treatment.

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