The Florida Legislature is close to passing a law that could profoundly change the rights of personal injury victims across the state. A pair of tort reform bills are making progress, with Gov. Ron DeSantis already having signed the House version and the Senate bill laid on the table and close to a vote as of late March.
The bills contain similar language and seem to have the same goals: to make it harder to sue the parties responsible for your injuries and to ensure victims get less compensation if they do prevail. Among the provisions:
- A reduction of the statute of limitations (the time you have to file suit) from four years after the injury occurred, such as the date of your car accident, to two.
- Raising the standard of fault to require the plaintiff to be no more than 50 percent liable for their own injuries to recover any damages. Currently, Florida uses a pure comparative fault standard, which means a defendant can be forced to pay for whatever percentage of liability they are found to have contributed to a plaintiff’s injuries. Under these bills, if the jury finds that a plaintiff was 51 percent responsible and the defendant was 49 percent responsible, the plaintiff would get zero compensation.
- Elimination of the duty for insurance companies who treated a claim in bad faith to pay the plaintiff’s attorneys fees, except in very narrow circumstances.
- Caps on damages in negligent security cases, such as when a hotel negligently allows someone with a weapon onto the premises and the armed person injures you as a result.
Critics say these reform efforts benefit insurance companies over injured Floridians. Supporters claim that victims and their attorneys “abuse” the system and get too much compensation.
Don’t give up your right to compensation after an accident
Even if the law changes as we describe above, you should not be afraid to consider litigation over a lowball insurance settlement offer. Justice will still be possible for many injured people.