TALLAHASSEE -- Could a special session on no-fault auto insurance be in the works?
Senate Banking and Insurance Chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, told the Sun-Sentinel that should an appeals court strike down reforms the state made to personal injury protection law last year, he will recommend to Senate President Don Gaetz that the Legislature return to Tallahassee for a special session to address the issue.
"I think that PIP is breathing its last gasp of breath and depending on what the court of appeals does, we may be back here dealing with this issue," he said.
Last month, Tallahassee Judge Terry Lewis tore apart recent changes to the state's 41-year-old no-fault auto insurance system, which pays for the first $10,000 in medical care and lost wages no matter who is at fault in a car crash. Lawmakers made substantial changes to the law last year in light of huge increases in auto insurance rates, which insurers attributed to fraud in the personal injury protection system.
Under the new law, accident victims must see a doctor within 14 days and only patients with an "emergency medical condition" would get the full $10,000 worth of care. Otherwise, only $2,500 would be paid out. Patients could also not receive actupuncture or massage therapy as part of their treatment if they want the insurance company to pay for it.
But Lewis said some of the changes were unconstitutional because they did not adequately compensate drivers for giving up the right to sue.
Simmons forwarded a bill this session to eliminate PIP and replace it with mandatory bodily injury protection, which would take the state back to a system where the injured party would have to sue the at-fault driver to have their medical bills paid. The bill passed one committee, but with only eight days left in the 2013 session, the proposal is all but dead for the year.
"The simple fact of trying to do something between now and May 3 is like trying to put 25 pounds sugar in a 15 pound sack," Simmons said. "It’s exceedingly difficult."
Simmons met with Gaetz earlier this week to discuss "solutions" to the issue.
A spokeswoman for Gaetz said that the President wants to hear from the court before taking any action on the issue.