Recent changes to Florida’s auto insurance laws will dramatically reduce the length of time that injured accident victims have to obtain medical care through the state’s No-Fault system, as well as reduce the maximum benefit amount in most cases.

Under new provisions that went into effect on January 1, 2013, people seeking Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits in Florida will be required to receive initial medical care and services within 14 days of being injured in a motor vehicle accident. Previously, Florida accident victims had two years to make PIP medical claims after being injured in a crash.

Other changes to the Florida No-Fault system will further limit the benefits available to people injured in motor vehicle accidents. Unless diagnosed with an “emergency medical condition,” people injured in car accidents will only be eligible for a maximum of $2,500 in medical PIP benefits, instead of the $10,000 maximum benefit currently available. Soft tissue injuries, which are common in car accidents and can be severe, are not expected to qualify as emergencies.

Changes Could Reduce Access To Medical Care

Proponents of the changes hope they will help prevent fraud and return PIP to its original purpose of providing immediate coverage to people with severe injuries. However, the measures have drawn criticism from others who believe they will prevent many injured people from getting the medical benefits they need after an accident.

In many cases, people involved in car accidents do not realize the severity of their injuries until weeks or months later when their conditions worsen or fail to improve. This risk is particularly high for people suffering damage to the body’s delicate tissues, such as muscles, tendons and nerves, because soft tissue injuries frequently appear mild at first and worsen over time. Under the new law, this latency period may prevent people from obtaining PIP benefits if they did not receive medical care for their injuries within 14 days.

The reduced benefit limit for most injuries is another cause of concern, since necessary diagnostic procedures such as MRIs and CT scans can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, leaving very little to pay for treatment. For people whose injuries exceed the PIP benefit limits, or who miss the two-week deadline for seeking care, other benefits may be available through the at-fault driver’s liability policy or other insurance coverage. For help obtaining insurance benefits after being injured in a car accident in Florida, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer.