New Tort Reform Laws
I spoke to WESH about the new “tort reform” laws in Florida. As someone licensed in 8 states who has a decade of representing businesses and insurance carriers and another decade representing the injured, I offer a unique ability to compare and contrast. Before this bill, Florida had favorable laws for those injured in its state. Now Florida is somewhat below average in protecting victims. I might add it is significantly draconian when it comes to government/sovereign immunity and also shamefully fails to mandate minimal bodily injury coverage like nearly every other state.
The main provisions are:
The statute of limitations (filing deadline) for negligence claims arising after the bill is 2 years. It was 4 years. 2 years is fairly standard around the country. Insurance companies often drag their feet on cases and sometimes the true impact of a significant injury isn’t known for some time, but this isn’t an outrageous change. It will create an increased market for lawyers hired by insurance companies, as more cases will go to court. Typically, a majority of injury claims would settle pre-suit between the injury attorney and insurance adjuster. As a result of the new law, over 100,000 new lawsuits were filed. This will create an issue in dockets all over the country, which were only slightly improved from COVID delays.
The biggest change is the fact that an injury victim(s) who is found to be 51% at fault in an incident cannot recover at all. Previously, an injured party in Florida could recover what a jury said the other party was at fault. For instance, under the old system if you have $5000 in medical bills and the other side was 50% at fault, you could recover $2500. If someone suffered a brain injury and a jury said they were 75% responsible, 25% of bills and expenses are often a matter of life and death. These cases are often complex. If someone falls on a dangerous wet floor, but is wearing old shoes with little tread left, it is up to the jury to determine who is responsible and at what percent. Or if an inebriated driver hits someone crossing the street at the wrong time, figuring it out is the jury’s job and the injured got to recover whatever percent they were not at fault. Now, if a plaintiff is 51% responsible, he/she recovers nothing. This is fairly common across the country, but certainly lets negligent and reckless situations go without any justice.
A new statute adds defenses to negligent security cases involving apartments and other residential buildings. It holds owners or operators which implement very minimum security measures has a presumption against liability. This law goes too far. We are in the middle of an affordable housing crisis and substandard housing is getting worse. We have record violence. Some complex owners and operators aren’t doing enough and adding security cameras and lights won’t change that. However, it’s a presumption against liability, which can be overcome. This will lead to more discovery in cases.
The law also limits amounts awardable for past and future medical bills and adds more restrictions against finding insurance companies in bad faith.
Lawyers must make sure the insurance companies are acting fairly. I worked for ten years defending these claims for these companies and big businesses. I could write a book about ways they use your desire to be fair and reasonable against you. Insurance carriers try to negotiate every dollar, because it means millions in profit. Rates aren’t going down. Quality attorneys matter more than ever. Defendants and their carriers change their game plan when an experienced lawyer is involved. For that reason – and the misinformation by TV lawyers and referral services – is why people should select lawyers carefully.
Personal injury law requires knowledge about medical science and biomechanics (the forces on a body in a wreck or a fall) far greater and more specific than you’d think. The other side has doctors and millions on their side to say nothing is wrong or fight the claim. More lawyers are recklessly jumping into personal injury and wrongful death cases and should stick to what they know. Other lawyers are just too inexperienced to be able earn the respect of insurance companies or have never tried a case.
If you were injured, get a consultation with a good lawyer. It’s free and important. Our firm has multiple Board Certified Lawyers. The Bar certifies lawyers who pass a full day examination and undergo extra training and who have a documented history of going to trial and good peer reviews. If you are paying the same contingency fee, we’d recommend hiring a Board Certified lawyer. It makes a difference.
Phillip’s, Hunt, Walker & Hanna is here to help.
The law offices of Phillip’s, Hunt, Walker & Hanna are located at 212 North Laura Street, Jacksonville, Florida 32202. You can submit a free case evaluation online at Floridajustice.com or over the phone at (904) 444-4444.
This blog post published by Phillips, Hunt, Walker & Hanna is for informational purposes only and is not considered legal advice on any subject matter. For legal advice, please contact a licensed attorney.