Injured car accident victims would be forced to emergency rooms under lawmaker proposal

TALLAHASSEE — With the support of Gov. Rick Scott, a plan requiring that all victims injured in auto accidents be treated in emergency rooms continues to gain steam.

The proposed reform to the state's no-fault auto insurance program has already been approved by two House committees and has the backing of the insurance and business industries. During a Wednesday news conference that sometimes resembled a pep rally, Scott encouraged Florida citizens to continue to put pressure on legislators.

"You're tired of scammers taking advantage of you," the governor said. "You're tired of attorneys taking advantage of you. One billion dollars a year. We need to change this."

The news conference was hosted by a coalition of groups that support personal injury protection, or PIP, reform. Several of the roughly 100 people who crowded around to listen to the governor held signs supporting HB 119 and chanted, "Put the brakes on fraud."

The legislation requires people to seek treatment at a hospital within 72 hours of an accident, caps attorneys fees and strikes chiropractors and massage therapists from the list of medical professionals who can perform follow-up care.

The state requires drivers to carry $10,000 of PIP insurance, which helps pay for their medical care and lost wages if they are injured in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. In recent years, fraudulent claims and staged accidents have caused car insurance rates to skyrocket.

But the House proposal isn't the only one that legislators have to choose from.

Another measure backed by Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, does not cap attorneys fees but requires long-form accident reports and additional licensing for clinics. It also would create a statewide anti-fraud task force.

The Senate legislation has the support of attorneys, chiropractors and citizens groups. They say the House's emergency room requirement limits patient choice and does nothing to eliminate actual fraud.

Tia Mitchell can be reached at tmitchell@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263.

Injured car accident victims would be forced to emergency rooms under lawmaker proposal 01/25/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 11:23pm]

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