A valued right of consumers in Florida is now under direct threat from special interest groups like the insurance industry. Your freedom to transfer your rights under your motor vehicle insurance policy is in danger of being taken away. The right to freely transfer your own insurance benefits has been a part of Florida law for over a century. This right is very important to consumers because it allows you to be made whole quickly, efficiently, and with quality services and workmanship, when you suffer a loss that is covered by a motor vehicle insurance policy.
Lawmakers are now considering taking away this right in the context of motor vehicle insurance policies. These proposed changes will benefit the insurance industry, who hope to increase the insurance companies’ bottom lines at the expense of consumers, like you, in Florida. These proposed changes are bad news for not only you — the consumer — but also for medical providers and motor vehicle repair shops as well. There is still time to help fight these changes, but you must act quickly. Here is what you need to know.
Your Right to Transfer Insurance Benefits in Florida
In Florida, you have the right to transfer your insurance benefits to service providers. This includes your ability to transfer your benefits to automobile repair shops for fixing your vehicle. This also includes your ability to transfer your benefits to medical providers for treatment as a result of a motor vehicle accident. The right to transfer insurance benefits has been enjoyed by consumers throughout Florida for over a century. If a consumer suffers a loss that is covered under an insurance policy, they can transfer the payout of their insurance claim to the service provider who provided the service. This is an important right for you, as it allows you to receive services quickly and by the service provider of your choice. Additionally, it allows the service provider to deal directly with the insurance company regarding payment so that you do not have to. This is important, because consumers don’t often have the experience needed to negotiate with insurance companies for fair prices. Finally, if your insurance company fails to properly pay your claim, you won’t need to hire a lawyer to fight your insurance company since you’ve assigned that claim to the service provider.
This is significant because, for the most part, the service provider is in a much better position than you to deal with the insurance company on these issues. Typically, a service provider deals with insurance companies on a daily basis. Service providers have the experience needed to immediately know if your insurance company is not paying a fair amount. Also, the service provider will be better able to support any claim through the court system as they usually have prior experience and knowledge in this area as well. A service provider may be more willing to hold an insurance company accountable for failing to abide by the insurance policy’s terms. This helps you receive better quality services and products.
Lawmakers Are Considering Taking Away Your Right to Transfer Benefits Regarding Motor Vehicle Insurance Policies
Lawmakers are now considering taking away your right to transfer benefits under a motor vehicle insurance policy. The insurance industry has lobbied the legislature to pass laws that limit your rights. As a result, recently, lawmakers have proposed changes that eliminate your right to transfer benefits under your motor vehicle insurance policy. The new proposal would bar you from transferring these benefits. For purposes of these proposed changes, a motor vehicle insurance policy would be any policy that provided coverage for personal injury protection, property damage liability coverage, or both of these coverages.
How likely is it that these proposals will become law? Unfortunately, insurance companies have already convinced lawmakers to change some laws and take away your right to transfer insurance benefits in regard to homeowner’s insurance policies! Significantly, a homeowner now no longer has a right to transfer their own rights to a service provider, such as roofers or other home repair specialists. Lawmakers are now proposing similar changes to take away your rights regarding your motor vehicle insurance policy.
How the Possible Changes Will Negatively Impact Consumers
The proposed changes to assignments of benefits will have a significant and negative impact on consumers. These proposed changes will have an effect on anyone with motor vehicle insurance in the state of Florida. If you can no longer transfer your own insurance benefits to service providers, you’ll be forced to deal with the insurance company yourself if you are unhappy with the amount paid on your claim. Treatment and repair work may be delayed because you will likely need to first receive payment from your insurance company. Then you’ll be forced to find a service provider who is willing to work for the amount offered by the insurance company – an amount that is sometimes deeply discounted. If the insurance company failed to properly pay your claim, you’ll have to fight with them over the proper amount for payment. If a lawsuit needs to be filed, you’ll have to hire an attorney yourself, instead of having the freedom to pass the problem off to the service provider.
If service providers are no longer able to rely on transfers of insurance benefits, they will likely not be willing to provide treatment or perform work before receiving payment. This will lead to delays for you in obtaining treatment as a result of a motor vehicle accident. This will also inevitably lead to delays for you in repairing any damage to your vehicle. If you are not willing to or are unable to endure such a delay, you’ll be forced to pay for the treatment or repair out of your own pocket with no guarantee that the insurance company will ever pay you for your out-of-pocket expenses.
Furthermore, this will incentivize insurance companies to pay a lower amount for your treatment and repairs to your vehicle since they know it is unlikely you will do anything about it. This, in turn, will limit your ability to obtain quality treatment, products, or work from a service provider, and may end up forcing you to choose between paying a portion out of your own pocket or accepting lower quality products, treatment, or services.
Even more lengthy delays will result if you are forced to obtain relief through the court system. In that scenario, you would have to pay out of pocket for any treatment, services, or repairs that your insurance company was not willing to pay for, and you would not be reimbursed until the successful conclusion of your lawsuit. If your lawsuit was unsuccessful, you would not be reimbursed at all. A court action could take months or even years to resolve. This would leave you in the difficult position of having to choose to either pay out of your own pocket or wait until the legal process is concluded.
Also, you could be forced to use a service provider that accepts the insurance company’s deeply discounted rates rather than pay any extra amounts out of your own pocket. This would limit your ability to choose what treatment or services that you want to use. Eventually, the proposed changes will limit competition within the market for these services, and effectively limit your choices.
All of these outcomes are bad news for consumers and hurt the small businesses that we rely on and know. Any changes to your freedom to assign your insurance benefits to service providers will certainly create negative consequences for anyone with a motor vehicle insurance policy in Florida.
Proposed Changes Effect on Medical Providers
The proposed changes to motor vehicle insurance will have a significant negative impact on Florida’s small businesses. Medical providers that help you recover from motor vehicle accidents in particular, will be hurt by these proposed changes.
Consumers will no longer be able to transfer their benefits to medical providers in exchange for treatment. Insurance companies may still be able to pay a medical provider directly if the proper laws are complied with, but consumers will no longer have the freedom to transfer their benefits under a motor vehicle insurance policy to a medical provider. This is significant, because the medical providers have extensive experience in dealing with insurance companies and know what amounts the insurance companies should be providing for your medical treatment. They are in a much better position to deal with the insurance company regarding payment for medical services. The consumer would be at a disadvantage in dealing with the insurance company regarding payment, as typically the consumer would have no knowledge or experience regarding the proper payment for medical services. The proposed changes attempt to take the negotiation for compensation of medical services out of the hands of the medical providers that are providing those services and force you, the consumer, to wrangle with your insurance company over the amount that needs to be provided for medical services. If the insurance company fails to provide proper payment, the consumer, and not the medical provider, will need to file a lawsuit to obtain proper payment. Most times, the consumer won’t even know what the proper amount for payment should be.
This means that medical providers will have to choose between asking their patients to pay the full amount for treatment out of their own pocket upfront or providing treatment and waiting on the patient to be reimbursed by their insurance company before receiving payment. If the medical provider chose to wait for their patient to be reimbursed, there would be no guarantee that their patient would ever be properly reimbursed for the treatment. The medical provider might then have to choose between waiving the remaining balance that is due or asking their patient to pay the remaining balance.
This will inevitably lead to lower payouts for medical services as insurance companies will likely not have to worry about being held accountable for lower payments that do not comply with the motor vehicle insurance policy. This in turn, will lead to medical providers not being properly reimbursed for much needed treatment that was provided to patients.
Additionally, the proposed changes are inconsistent with already established laws regarding the payment of insurance benefits for medical services. Florida law requires medical providers to provide the insurance company with their bills for services and allows the insurance company to pay a medical provider directly if certain conditions are met. However, the proposed changes would take away your freedom to transfer your benefits under your policy to a medical provider. Your insurance company would still be free to choose whether to pay you or the medical provider. However, the proposed changes would take away that same freedom for you to have the medical provider paid directly by the insurance company.
Eventually, these proposed changes will lead to more and more medical providers being forced to accept the discounted rates that the insurance companies prefer to pay so they can pocket more of your premiums. This essentially allows the insurance companies to dictate the price that will be paid for medical services paid for under a motor vehicle insurance contract.
Proposed Changes Effect on Motor Vehicle Repair Shops
Motor vehicle repair shops will also be negatively impacted by the proposed changes. Just like medical providers, motor vehicle repair shops will no longer be able to receive a transfer of benefits from consumers in exchange for much needed motor vehicle repairs.
Much like medical providers, motor vehicle repair shops are also in a much better position to deal with the insurance company regarding what should be paid for their services. The proposed changes will make the consumer responsible for dealing with the insurance company over the price to be paid for motor vehicle repair services. Just like with medical services, the consumer will be at a disadvantage when dealing with their insurance company as they likely will not have the specialized knowledge that repair shops have regarding the proper payment for repair services. Should the insurance company fail to provide proper payment, it would again fall on the consumer, and not the repair shop, to bring a lawsuit to obtain proper payment.
This also means that repair shops will have to choose between asking their customers to pay the full amount of the repair out of their own pocket upfront or completing the repair and waiting on the customer to be reimbursed by their insurance company before receiving payment. Again, there would be no guarantee that their customer would be properly reimbursed for the repair. The repair shop also might have to choose between waiving the remaining balance that is due or asking their customer to pay that remaining balance.
This will also lead to lower payouts for motor vehicle repair services as, yet again, insurance companies will not have to be concerned about being held accountable for lower payments that do not comply with the motor vehicle insurance policy. This will also lead to repair shops not being properly compensated for necessary motor vehicle repairs.
As with medical providers, these proposed changes will lead to more and more repair shops being compelled to accept the reduced rates that the insurance companies desire to pay. This will allow the insurance companies to dictate the price that will be paid for motor vehicle repairs in addition to medical services payable from a motor vehicle insurance contract.
How You Can Help to Keep Your Freedom
The loss of your freedom and rights to transfer your motor vehicle insurance benefits is not inevitable. You can have a say in what ultimately happens to assignments of benefits regarding motor vehicle insurance policies in the state of Florida. Please contact your local Florida state representative, state senator, and the Florida representative that sponsored the bill to let them know that you are AGAINST any changes that would take away your right and freedom to assign your own insurance benefits!
To contact the Florida representative that sponsored these proposed changes and voice your opposition to them, contact Representative Philip Griffitts at (850)717-5006 or (850)914-6300.
To find your local Florida state senator and contact information, please visit: https://www.flsenate.gov/senators/find
To find your local Florida state representative and contact information, please visit: https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/findyourrepresentative
Also, medical providers should contact the Florida Medical Association at (850) 224-6496 to find out how they can help defeat any changes to assignment of benefits.
We understand that navigating an insurance claim can be difficult and confusing. We are here to help. If you have any questions or need assistance with an insurance claim, please contact us at (813) 254-7119.
Authored by Attorney Thomas McFadyen
Posted on behalf of