Florida Tort Reform Bill: A Comprehensive Analysis
In the words of Florida’s Governor, Ron Desantis, Florida’s legal system is a “hell-hole” compared to other states in the country. However, the proposed changes to the current tort system via bill HB 837 seek to change that and put an end to frivolous lawsuits and excessive litigation.
Proponents of the bill believe these changes will make Florida’s legal system more balanced, fair, and transparent. At the same time, opponents fear that it could limit access to justice for individuals who have suffered harm just to thwart a few bad actors, which may not be worth it.
Continue reading to learn how the reforms could affect you and any personal injury claims brought in the state.
What is Florida’s Tort Reform Bill?
The Florida Legislature will consider multiple reforms to the tort laws currently in place. That includes House Bill 837 (HB 837). This bill seeks to make Florida’s legal system more transparent and balanced.
If passed, this bill would make the following changes to the law, but not limited to:
- The statute of limitations for general negligence cases would be reduced from four years to two.
- Florida would change its status from a “pure” comparative negligence state to a “modified” version. Under the proposed changes, plaintiffs who are at least 50 percent at fault for their injuries would not be allowed to recover damages.
- More transparency would be required with regard to damage awards for medical expenses. This would allow judges and juries to make a more accurate calculation of the value of both past and future medical expenses.
- The implementation of insurance policy limits, which could reduce insurance rates for citizens while simultaneously limiting the damages for medical treatment third-party claimants can seek from insurers. Further, this part of the bill also states that negligence alone doesn’t always constitute bad faith.
- Elimination of fee multipliers for attorneys representing clients in auto and liability insurance claims. This won’t affect business, debt, or divorce lawyers, but will have a big impact on personal injury lawyers– specifically large law firms.
- The end of one way attorneys’ fees in most cases, which aims to disincentivize frivolous lawsuits and reduce the burden of excessive and predatory litigation in Florida.
If this proposed legislation is approved, it would significantly alter Florida’s tort law landscape and potentially result in many benefits for defendants, insurance providers, and citizens (via reduced fees for health care coverage) and business owners in personal injury cases.
However, there are many opponents of the bill who believe it may limit an individual’s ability to seek justice and fair compensation for their injuries. Continue reading to learn more.
Impact on the Legal System
The proposed changes to Florida’s Tort laws could have a massive impact on the legal system. Learn more about the potential impact of the most significant reforms on the legal system in the sections below.
Reduced Statute of Limitation
Cutting down the statute of limitations from four years to two, for example, could cut down on the cases the state has to deal with in its courts substantially. This should theoretically lead to financial relief for the state as well as fewer personal injury lawsuits. However, it may also heavily restrict people’s right to receive compensation for valid injuries caused by another person or party.
Change From “Pure” Comparative Fault to “Modified”
Suppose Florida changes from a “pure” comparative fault system to a “modified” one. In that case, it could (and most likely will) reduce how much plaintiffs are awarded for their injuries. That said, it will also reduce the number of cases in the Florida court system, which could result in significant savings for the government as well as potentially reduce health coverage costs over time.
Changes to a Plaintiff’s Ability to Recover Medical Damages
Lastly, the proposed changes for medical damages may be the most impactful. It’s well known that predicted medical expenses can be artificially inflated in comparison to actual medical costs.
Bill HB 837 specifically aims to change this. Here’s how:
- It proposes an exception to the attorney-client privilege concerning an attorney’s referral of their client to a medical professional (i.e., doctors). That information is currently not allowed (i.e., inadmissible) in court as it is privileged.
- It would require a plaintiff and their attorney to present evidence (i.e., letters of protection) regarding medical services and medical care calculations for a personal injury or wrongful death action. Further, it creates a uniform process to calculate such expenses via a new provision: Florida Statute § 768.0427.
- Plaintiffs would have to produce actual evidence of how much they paid for medical expenses instead of the original billed amount, which is typically much more than the often-inflated original bill.
Florida is known as one of the most litigious states in the country. If these potential changes (among others) to Florida’s tort laws are passed, it could reduce the number of lawsuits and available damages for plaintiffs. Continue reading to learn what supporters and opponents of the proposed changes are saying.
Opinions Of Supporters
Supporters of the Tort Reform Bill in Florida argue that its various changes are essential to creating a more balanced and transparent legal system. The proposed bill includes the introduction of stricter guidelines for calculating medical damages in personal injury claims; this, supporters believe, would lead to more accurate and consistent awards.
Additionally, proponents suggest that shifting from a “pure” to a “modified” comparative negligence system brings much-needed fairness – preventing those who are more than 50% responsible for their injuries from recovering damages. This change is seen as necessary to prevent plaintiffs from receiving compensation that could be deemed inappropriate or unjustified.
Overall, proponents of the Tort Reform Bill see it as an opportunity to address long-standing issues in the existing legal system and create better outcomes for injured parties and defendants alike. They believe the proposed changes will bring much-needed balance and clarity to Florida’s legal system while providing greater access to justice for all involved.
Opinions of Opponents
The proposed Tort Reform Bill has caused quite a stir in Florida, leading some to worry that it could prevent people from getting the justice they deserve. According to the bill, the statute of limitations for negligence cases is set to be reduced from four years to two – meaning if someone doesn’t realize they’ve been hurt until after the two-year window closes, they won’t be able to take legal action.
The bill also proposes switching from a “pure” comparative negligence system to a “modified” one. This means that people who have suffered harm caused by another person’s negligence may not receive full compensation for their damages as easily as before.
All in all, many are concerned that these tort reforms would make it harder for plaintiffs to get fair treatment and rightful compensation in court proceedings. While these changes might bring balance or clarity to Florida’s legal system, they could have unintended effects that do not serve those seeking justice in the state.
People agree that something needs to be done about Florida’s current tort laws – the question is, what? HB 837 aims to make a real difference with its proposed changes – but the effects of these reforms on different parties involved could be immense. Plaintiffs, insurers, and attorneys alike are likely to feel the impact that this bill will have on personal injury and the state’s legal system.