March 19, 2012

How Florida Auto Insurance Coverage Could Change Dramatically In 2012

Many states with no fault auto insurance laws are considering updated insurance laws, but in 2012, Florida drivers will see some of the most significant reforms. The reforms will affect personal injury protection auto insurance coverage, often abbreviated simply as PIP. While there is disagreement between the Florida House and Senate, the changes will likely alter insurance companies' legal requirements to injured drivers. Legislators hope that the revisions will reduce auto insurance costs for Florida drivers by preventing fraud and limiting insurance companies' claim payments.

Under one proposal currently making its way through the Florida House of Representatives, Florida drivers will carry $10,000 in emergency medical coverage, which will pay for emergency room or hospital visits within 72 hours of an accident. However, the coverage will not pay for treatment at an independent clinic or treatments from chiropractors, acupuncturists and other non-medical specialists. This proposal is relatively harsh, but its proponents claim that it will protect Florida drivers from the most immediate costs of an accident while limiting auto insurance costs throughout the state. Detractors claim that the 72-hour time period is too brief, as many injuries don't present symptoms for several days after an accident. Professional chiropractor organizations have spoken out against the proposal, claiming that it restricts Florida drivers' rights to seek their own medical care. Still, the House bill has received notable support.

A Senate bill offers a completely different means of reform. Under the Senate bill, the state will license medical institutions to provide care to drivers, thereby preventing fraudulent independent clinics from taking advantage of PIP law. Florida drivers will stay pay for PIP insurance, but the proposal's backers hope that auto insurance coverage costs will drop after the bill takes effect. The state will require insurance companies to pay all PIP claims in a timely manner. Opponents of the bill note that other states with similar PIP claim payment time frames have seen higher-than-average auto insurance costs, the most notable example being New York. Proponents claim that the time frame requirement is necessary to prevent insurance companies from unfairly delaying payments to try to avoid PIP claims from Florida drivers.

Both bills are facing extensive rewrites in the final days of Florida congressional sessions. However, it is apparent that some one of the two major bills will pass. To avoid high auto insurance coverage costs, Florida drivers should compare insurance quotes shortly after the new reforms take effect. Insurance companies will react to reform in different ways, and rates might change drastically within the first several months. Comparing costs will help Florida drivers understand their insurance bills and avoid raising premiums over the next several months.