ON March 9th of this year, just as the Legislative Session was coming to a close, our Legislators passed Governor Scott’s anti-consumer PIP reform Bill. This law will have a direct and negative affect on all of us who have the misfortune of being injured in an auto accident.   While the constitutionality of this Draconian law will undoubtedly be challenged in our Court System, it will be our reality beginning January 1st, 2013 and for the foreseeable future.

Currently, all Auto Insurance policies sold in Florida must contain a provision that makes $10,000 available to the insured for Medical and Disability benefits regardless of fault.   (This is commonly referred to as “No Fault” coverage).   This law was passed years ago at the request of the Insurance Industry who assured all Floridians that their premiums would all be reduced because the law also restricted the circumstances an injured driver could be compensated for pain and suffering.   Generally, an insured is entitled to these benefits for treatment for injuries that is reasonably related to injuries sustained arising from the operation or occupation of an insured auto.   This scheme served to greatly reduce Insurance Companies exposure for payment of damages caused by their insured’s negligence.   As we all know, the promised premium reductions never happened.

But, the Insurance Industry was not happy.   They simply did not like the prospect of paying up to   $10,000 for their customers’ injuries. Through the years, they have tried unsuccessfully to limit these benefits.   But now, they found Governor Scott, who accommodates this industry at every opportunity.

Accordingly, under this law, to receive any benefits, you MUST receive treatment within 14 days of the accident. If the insured waits to the 15th day, he receives nothing.

Additionally, your $10,000 benefits our now reduced to $2,500 unless a MD or DO certifies that your injuries qualify as an “Emergency Medical Condition” . Note that while chiropractic care is still paid for, Chiropractors are not permitted to categorize your condition as   “Emergency”

Additionally, massage therapy and acupuncture will simply not be eligible for any payment under this law.

Finally, before the Insurance Company makes any payments of any sort, it can force you to undergo an Examination Under Oath, set by your company.

These changes will undoubtedly cause delay in payments, delay and reduction in treatment, reduction in quality of treatment, and increased and costly litigation.

Can you guess what it will not cause?   Not a penny savings to you in premium reductions. Next election, THINK before you vote!

Florida Automobile Insurance Laws: It’s Time for a Change!

As the current Florida legislative Session wears on, once again a major topic of concern is our current law regarding automobile insurance.Every year, we hear our legislators bemoan the fraud inherent with this system and question how to fix it.

Make no mistake, there do exist individuals and businesses that abuse this system by submitting fraudulent claims. But the legislative response, especially in the House, always tends to strip consumer’s rights to simply add to Big Insurance already substantial bottom line.

The Current Law

To understand this issue, we must first understand the current Florida laws regarding Automobile Insurance. To begin, the only mandated coverages are property damage coverage of $10,000 and Persona Insurance Protection (PIP) of $10,000. Property damage covers damage an “at fault “driver does to the property of another, and PIP provides the insured and family a “pot” of 10,000 to apply to medical or health care bills related to injuries and, in some cases, to apply towards lost wages, arising from the operation of a motor vehicle. It is important to note that these benefits are not fault
based, e.g. no matter who caused the accident, theses benefits flow from the
insured drivers or owners own policy. Additionally, the law provides that there
can be no recovery for “pain and Suffering” from the at fault driver unless the
injured person suffers “death, loss of limb, significant scarring or permanent
injury” .   When these laws were passed, there was much publicity on how they would greatly reduce all Floridians Auto Insurance Premiums!

The Actual Effect

As any Floridian driver knows, the great reductions in our insurance premiums never materialized.  Instead, we now live in a state where the only insurance one needs to be
“legal”  is mere $10,000 to fix someone’s property and $10,000 to pay for one’s own
medical expenses.   Accordingly, under these policies, if one’s medical expenses exceed $10,000, well… too bad.

Additionally, because of the defined 10,000 pot for medical expenses, an entire shady industry of fraudulent “Health Care” providers sprung up who’s sole purpose is to grab as many $10,000 “pots” as they can, without any real consideration to the injured patients needs. The final outcome to Floridians thus is continuing premium increases, dwindling treatment options, and in cases of serious injuries and deaths, total financial collapse.

The Change

MANDATORY BODILY INJURY COVERAGE!   Bodily Injury coverage provides money from the at fault drivers insurance to pay for the innocent victims entire damages,
medical, financial and mental.   48 out 50 states in the U.S. require that their driver carry this coverage. Of course Florida is only one of two states that do not. This coverage is only logical; it shifts the burden of the injured person’s  expense to the person
who caused the injuries. By combining this coverage with a subrogable medical
pay coverage (an amount of money from your own insurer to apply to your medical
bills but then gets paid back through the at fault persons bodily injury coverage), we can afford our citizens economic protection, end the “PIP Mills” who exist only to drain PIP benefits, and see a semblance of reasonableness in our insurance premiums.

It is time for our legislators to get serious about protecting Floridians! Instead of dreaming up new ways to limit injured peoples benefits, let’s get in step with rest of the United States and require drivers to carry MANDATORY Bodily Injury Coverage.

What you might not know about your auto insurance…

You probably know that Florida is a “no fault” state for motor vehicle insurance. But what does that really mean for Floridians and the insurance we should carry?

“No fault” refers to the basic personal insurance protection (PIP) Florida law requires in every automobile (but not motorcycle) policy. It is a $10,000 “pot” that pays 80% of medical bills and/or 60% of lost wages from your own policy–regardless of who is at fault for the accident. (You can choose to exclude wage loss coverage.) In short, if you are injured in automobile accident, your insurer must pay these benefits and you can’t be penalized for it. Florida doesn’t require drivers to carry any more than basic PIP and $10,000 worth of property coverage. That’s it. So far too many Florida drivers carry only PIP (which pays their own medical bills) and property damage coverage (which pays for damage to your car).

But, what happens if you are seriously injured? The basic $10,000 in PIP benefits can be spent quickly on medical expenses. Then what? Can you protect yourself from these underinsured drivers?The answer is yes, but you must know about the coverages available to you as well the benefits to which you may be entitled. You are entitled to recover all of your out-of-pocket expenses for things like medical, nursing and rehabilitative costs, past loss wages, and future loss of income. Additionally, if you suffer death, loss of limb, significant scarring or permanent injury, you or your estate
is entitled to be compensated for pain, suffering, and loss of companionship resulting from your injuries. Obviously, if the at-fault driver is underinsured or not insured at all, it could be all but impossible to recover these benefits. That’s why the most important insurance coverage might be uninsured motorist coverage (UM). This is a separate coverage makes sure your own insurance company “fills in the gaps” when you are involved with an uninsured or underinsured driver. This coverage is so critical that Florida law requires all insurance companies offering bodily injury liability insurance to include UM coverage as well. But, you can elect to not buy this coverage. No one should ever accept this risk. Always elect to spend the very few extra dollars because it could literally change your or your family’s lives or income. Too often people reject this
coverage without even knowing it because they simply sign the Rejection Form along with the scores of other documents needed when buying insurance. Don’t fall into this trap! Specifically tell your agent you want UM and don’t sign any document waiving this coverage.

Also, it’s important to make sure your UM coverage is “stacking.” This makes sure, for example, if you elected limits of $100,000 UM benefits, and you have three vehicles insured under that policy, the amount of benefits available to you triples to $300,000. It also expands the coverage to other vehicles in certain cases. Again, in order to waive the valuable stacking coverage, you must sign an explicit waiver. Don’t do it! Tell your agent you insist on stacking UM!

If you have questions as to what benefits your current insurance policy provides,
ask your attorney to review it for you. Many of us will do so for free, and the small amount of time you invest in this can lead to huge benefits in the future.

Surprising Facts About Motorcycle Law & Insurance in Florida

You’ve undoubtedly seen many ads from attorneys about motorcycle accident laws in Florida.   However, none seem to actually explain them. Here is some plain talk about motorcycle accidents, motorcycle laws, and motorcycle insurance that all bikers should know.

There is a very real difference in the laws relating to auto accidents and motorcycle accidents. Car accidents fall under the Florida No Fault law. This is the law that requires every insured motor vehicle to carry a minimum of $10,000 personal injury coverage–which pays medical bills and sometimes wage loss from the owner’s own insurance, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. The no-fault law also says that before someone is entitled to money for pain and suffering, he must suffer death, loss of limb, significant scarring, or permanent injury.

But the Florida No Fault law doesn’t apply these requirements to motorcycles. Although this means there is no automatic $10,000 pot to pay towards medical bills, it also means that the injured rider doesn’t need to meet “permanent injury” requirement to collect for pain and suffering from a wrongdoer causing an accident.

Because of these differences, insurance for motorcycles is very different than insurance for cars.   When you buy motorcycle insurance, you don’t automatically get coverage to pay for medical bills. You must buy this coverage, called med pay, in addition to your regular coverage. If you ride without a helmet, you’re required to carry med
, and it’s an important coverage you should insist!

Even if you have uninsured motorist coverage on your autos, it may not extend to your bike.   This is what protects you if you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured driver,  or one who’s doesn’t have enough insurance to pay for your damages. In Florida, this happens more often than you might think! To protect yourself, make sure you have uninsured motorist coverage for your motorcycle.  Make sure your bike is a listed insured vehicle on your policy, and that you carry stackable UM coverage. If your bike is not a listed vehicle on your auto policy, or if you do not have UM, then buy a separate policy for your bike that includes stackable UM!

Riding your motorcycle is one of life’s great pleasures. But, for the sake of you and your family, protect yourself. If you have questions about your insurance, call us at (386) 677-HELP (4357) for a free evaluation–or fill out or quick and easy online evaluation.

Injuries to Our Childen

When is a Liability Waiver Not a Waiver?

In our society, we, as parents are fortunate to have a vast array of commercial activities available to help enrich our childrens’ lives. These run the gamut from football and baseball camps to dance studios and cheer leading schools and everything in between. Most of these establishments are well run and well meaning. Almost of them will require the parents or guardian of the enrolled child to execute a pre-injury waiver, which is an attempt by these companies to free themselves from any liability for any harm that may come to your child while engaged in the companies programs.

All too often, our children our suffering serious injuries as a result of poorly adminstered programs or over zealous trainers. When questioned, the companies will always make reference to the waivers and attempt to escape liability on that basis. Do not be fooled by this tactic. Many of these waivers are not enforceable and may not operate to allow the company to escape its legal obligation to your children.

For example our Florida Supreme Court decided in 2008 that these pre-injury waivers or releases were unenforceable because the parent, by signing them, was not protecting the child, but was instead protecting the interests of the business. Thus, for a period of time, all of these waivers were of no effect. Unfortunately, in April of 2010, the Florida Legislature passed a law that did allow a limited waiver of liability. (FL Statute sec. 744.301(3)). That law allows waivers of liability only from injuries arising from an inherent risk of the activity itself.

For example, football is a contact sport, thus an injury arising from regular football activity may be subject to this limitation, but certainly injury from dehydration would not. Similarly, falling of a wake board in a wake board school is an inherent risk, but being run over by the tow boat surely is not. Also, the law specifically states that this waiver does not insulate the companies’ personnel from acts of their own negligence. Further, the law dictates specific language that must be contained in the waiver for it to have any effect.

Finally, the effective date of the law is April 27, 2010. Thus, injuries pre-dating that date may not be subject to this law. If your child has suffered injury at one of these providers, consult an attorney who understands these laws before you forfeit your child’s valuable legal rights.