Injunction on Parts of Florida’s PIP Law

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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Class-Action Against State-Run Citizens Insurance

Insurance customers of Florida’s state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. have filed a class-action lawsuit in Broward County to stop their reinspection program, according to news reports. The policyholders claim they’ve been hit with potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in what they call “back-door” rate increases. They claim Citizens managed to do this by performing what the plaintiffs say were arbitrary reinspections of their properties and then hitting the policyholders with higher windstorm premiums. Continue reading “Class-Action Against State-Run Citizens Insurance”

$6 Million Award to Victim of Insurance Company

Debra Peters is the hardworking co-owner of Custom Wood Creations, Inc, a Pompano Beach company that made high-end cabinets and furniture. The other co-owner is Debra’s husband, Ronald. The company suffered significant damage in 2005 due to Hurricane Wilma, but their insurance company, FCCI Commercial Insurance Co, refused to pay what they owed the couple, despite the fact that the Peters’ policy was up to date and paid in full. Florida insurance attorneys see this kind of scenario all the time, unfortunately. But what happened next brought Debra Peters’ case from the unfortunate and unfair to the horrific and nightmarish.

According to news reports, the insurance company not only refused to pay the claim, but the company instead accused Debra of insurance fraud. FCCI filed false and incomplete information on her to the Florida Department of Insurance, which resulted in criminal charges against Debra. She was arrested and spent 16 hours in jail. The criminal case was eventually thrown out for lack of evidence, but not before she and her family suffered from the emotional strain of the experience. And due to FCCI’s refusal to pay the claim for the hurricane damage, Ronald and Debra had to borrow money from friends to fix their building. In addition, they could not gather enough money to fix their equipment, so they ended up having to lease the space to another company, where Ronald now works.

This week, the Peters got some vindication when a Broward County Circuit Court jury awarded them $6 million from FCCI for breaching a contract and malicious prosecution after a three-week-long trial. It is broken down as $4.8 million in compensatory damages to recover what the Peters’ lost, and $1.2 million in punitive damages to punish the bad behavior of the insurance company. The jury found that FCCI intended to harm Debra Peters and that the company did so with unreasonable financial gain as the motivation. Their attorneys stated that Debra and Ronald Peters “just want to get back to work and restart their business, as they would have done if the insurance company had only paid what was owed after the hurricane.”

FCCI’s senior vice-president said they were disappointed with the Broward County ruling and are considering appealing the judgment, claiming their reputation is “paramount.” This could delay settlement of the case.

Cases like Debra and Ronald Peters’, where an insurance company pushes the less powerful customer around and tries to cheat the policyholder out of benefits paid for and due, show why it is important to talk to a Florida insurance attorney about your situation. And it is also important to remember that if you proceed with a case, under Florida law, if you succeed, the attorney’s fees will automatically be the responsibility of the insurance company. This means that no matter how big or small your claim, if you win your case, you get to keep the entire award and the insurance company will pay all of your lawyer’s fees.

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Property Insurance Rates Triple in Florida

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Florida Judge Rules On Validity of Wind Credit Insurance Forms

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