As the 2012 Florida legislative session is about to begin, Corporate Florida is rolling out its guns to prepare for its annual assault on the civil justice system. Although packaged as an effort to benefit consumers, make no mistake that the true goal is to maximize corporate profits at the expense of people. Profits over People.
PIP is one of the main targets in Corporate Florida's high powered sights this session.
Associated Industries of Florida is one of Corporate Florida's most aggressive players in the never ending war between profits and rights. It was in the forefront of the assault on Florida's workers' compensation system that has resulted in less support for injured workers today than 10 to 20 years ago. PIP is next.
On November 28, 2011, the Miami Herald published an editorial by a vice president for governmental affairs at Associated Industries, in which various proposals were made for revamping the PIP system. I will respond to each proposal.
Proposal: "Allow insurance companies adequate time to investigate suspicious claims."
Response: Under current Florida law, PIP insurance companies have at least 65 days to investigate claims before a lawsuit for breach of contract can be filed. This alone is adequate time to investigate a claim, but in reality carriers have much more time to investigate because in everyday practice PIP lawsuits are rarely filed within six months of an accident. During this period of time, carriers have many ways to investigate claims, including examining insureds under oath and having medical exams performed by hand chosen doctors.
Carriers have the right to deny claims that they feel are suspicious. If a claim is denied, an insured may drop the claim or file suit. Through legal proceedings, each side has the chance to fairly present its case to a judge and jury. What's unfair about that?
Proposal: "Cap attorney fees in no-fault cases to eliminate the incentive for frivolous litigation."
Response: This is a shell-game proposal. Carrier's know that fee caps will discourage lawyers from pursuing legitimate claims. It is a ploy the insurance industry has used with great success in gutting the rights of workers' compensation claimants. Carriers also know that there is no such thing as a frivolous lawsuits crisis, only a successful propaganda campaign to make the public believe there is. As I have blogged here before - Debunking The Myth About Frivolous Lawsuits (Florida) - Installment #1; Debunking The Myth About Frivolous Lawsuits (Florida) - Installment #2 ; South Florida Trial Lawyer - Tort Reform ("Deform) & What It Means - the concept that lawyers can make money pursuing frivolous claims defies logic and reason. As every lay person who has battled with an insurance carrier knows, it is hard enough to succeed with legitimate claims much less bogus claims. The civil justice system has created numerous filters to weed out even weak cases, so the notion that baseless cases somehow make it through the filter system is nothing short of disingenuous. Quite simply, Corporate America does not like being answerable to individuals in courts of law. The frivolous lawsuits fallacy is nothing short of a concerted campaign to bar the courthouse doors against individuals seeking redress. Profits over People.