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Car insurance PIP law scores win; Atwater calls it ‘relief’ for consumers

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A Florida appeals court on Wednesday halted a challenge to a law aimed at reforming the state’s car insurance system, ruling that attorneys fighting the law could not use a fictional “Jane Doe” as a stand-in for real Floridians injured in car accidents.

And Chief Financial Officer Jeff  Atwater called that a real win in the fight against insurance fraud that could help lower insurance rates in the Sunshine State.

pip1024“Today’s ruling moves Florida a step closer to beating back rampant auto insurance fraud and bringing rate relief to Florida consumers,” Atwater wrote in an email to News Service of Florida. “The people of Florida need insurance relief and it’s time they get that relief.”

The 1st District Court of Appeals reversed a circuit court ruling that granted an injunction to an acupuncturist, two massage therapists and a chiropractor who challenged the 2012 law, which sharply limited the ability of car accident victims to use insurance claims to pay for some treatments under the state’s no-fault insurance system, known as Personal Injury Protection, or PIP.

In addition to the treatment providers named in the suit, attorneys challenging the law included a “Jane Doe” to represent car accident victims who would not be able to file claims for some treatments.

None have standing to challenge the law, the appeals court ruled – especially the “fictional Jane Doe.”

Under the reform law, those filing claims for treatment of car accident-related injuries must seek treatment for them with 14 days of the incident. The law also caps benefits at $10,000 for emergency treatment and $2,500 for non-emergency treatment.

The medical providers stand to lose money from the limitations because insurance claims – or lawsuits under those claims – could not be used to pay for their treatments. But that doesn’t mean they have standing to challenge the law, the appeals court ruled.

“… [T]he alleged economic harm suffered by the Provider Plaintiffs in this case is an insufficient basis to assert others’ potential access-to-courts claims,” the ruling states.

As to the use of a fictional “Jane Doe” to represent unnamed car crash victims who might be unable to obtain treatment because of the new law, the appeals court didn’t buy it.

“The Provider Plaintiffs attempt to bootstrap the standing requirement by joining the fictional ‘Jane Doe,’ purporting to represent all Florida citizens that were, are, or will be injured as a result of a motor vehicle collision, must likewise fail,” the ruling states.

Donovan Brown, government relations counsel for the Property Casualty Insurance Association of America, said he expects the fight against insurance fraud will go on.

“Although today’s ruling was a victory for Florida’s consumers, we anticipate those that make a living profiting off of PIP will again attempt to challenge this law,” he said in a statement. “We hope that does not happen and Florida’s consumers will no longer be stuck in neutral.”

 

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