Florida Personal Injury Law Caps Unclear

October 20, 2015

On October 8th, Plaintiffs in two putative class actions against insurers in Florida argued before the Eleventh Circuit Court that the 2013 amendments to the State’s No-Fault Personal Injury Protection Statute created ambiguities in determining caps and that the lower courts erred in attempts to resolve those ambiguities

The contested issue is the interpretation of two sections lawmakers added to the law intended to maintain the existing $10,000 PIP benefit cap but only for claimants who have an emergency medical condition while reducing the maximum cap to $2,500 for those who did not.

Judge Carnes acknowledged that he was not satisfied with the Plaintiffs’ arguments and questioned why there was a need for certification in order to receive the $10,000 maximum for an emergency if a lack of certification would also default to a $10,000 maximum based on the prior law. However, the Judge allowed the Plaintiff’s attorney seven days to identify and submit two best examples of decisions from the Florida Supreme Court, which show a conflicting inconsistency in a state law, where the proper step is not to turn to the legislative history but to revert to prior law instead.

The Judge also challenged the Plaintiff’s argument against relying on legislative history before the defense. Counsel for the defense, Thomas E. Scott stated that “If the court were to rule this way, it would serve to defeat all that lawmakers were trying to accomplish.” The Defendant’s argument in the case is that the Legislature wanted some form of security to establish the two-tier benefit system and placed a burden on the claimant to prove their medical condition.

A decision has not yet been rendered in this case.

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