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Sweeping Changes to Florida’s Auto Accident Personal Injury Protection Laws

In 1972, the State of Florida enacted car insurance legislation designed to provide car accident victims with insurance for medical expenses and lost wages. In exchange for these insurance benefits, persons injured in car accidents could only bring a lawsuit for non-economic damages, i.e., pain and suffering, if he or she suffered a permanent injury as determined by a doctor.

Recently, in a supposed attempt to prevent insurance fraud, sweeping changes were passed by the Florida Legislature and approved by Florida Governor Rick Scott. These changes greatly limit a person’s benefits in the event of he or she being injured in a car accident. Whether a proportional reduction of car insurance premiums will result is questionable.

In order to qualify for any medical benefits, an accident victim must obtain obtain treatment within 14 days of an accident from a hospital, medical doctor, osteopathic physician, chiropractic physician, or a dentist. The full $10,000 PIP medical benefit is available only if, within that fourteen day period, such a medical provider – chiropractors not included – determines that the insured has an “emergency medical condition.” If not, the PIP medical benefit is limited to $2,500.00.

“Emergency medical condition” means that without further care, the person will suffer: serious jeopardy to health; serious impairment of bodily functions; or serious dysfunction of bodily organ or parts. Exactly what qualifies for such categories of injury will take some time, and lots of court decisions, to iron out.

If a person injured in an accident does not obtain medical care from a listed category of provider within fourteen days, that person will not be entitled to any personal injury protection benefits at all.

Senator Bill Nelson (whose office is located in our firm’s building here in Jacksonville) is among those who are opposed to this new legislation. He has been outspoken about his views that the changes will not prevent fraud, but will, instead, result only in increased profits for insurance companies at the expense of those suffering injuries in accidents.

The new law will become effective on January 1, 2013.

If you have any questions about your insurance or compensation rights resulting from a Jacksonville car accident, please contact our accident lawyers headquarted here in downtown Jacksonville.

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