Florida House Bill 837
Big change is looming in Tallahassee. New legislation aimed at tort reform is a big win for insurance companies, but it will have a profound impact on the rights of Florida citizens. The path to justice for victims of negligence will include new hurdles, and for some it will close the door to justice altogether.
The intended consequence is to reduce or eliminate negligence-based claims for monetary damages, which have been available under Florida law to victims and their families for decades. From motor vehicle accident cases to premises liability suits and beyond, the passage of HB 837 will greatly reduce victims’ rights.
While lawmakers are suggesting that insurance rates will be more affordable with this overhaul legislation, the bill does nothing to hold the insurance industry accountable for passing along any monetary savings to customers.
Some of the biggest proposed changes of HB 837 include the following:
- Florida will change from a “pure comparative fault” state to a “modified comparative fault” state.
- Bad faith laws will make it harder to hold insurance companies accountable.
- The amount of medical damages presented to a jury will be limited.
- The statute of limitations for negligence claims will be cut in half.
Pure Comparative Fault to Modified Comparative Fault System
One of the biggest changes House Bill 837 proposes is to switch Florida’s legal playing field from one that is based upon each person or entity’s percentage of fault to one that allows a plaintiff to recover only in certain situations.
In a pure comparative fault system, which is what Florida currently operates under, if a person is considered not responsible for any portion of an accident, they can recover that percentage of compensation for their own damages. So, even if a jury determines that the plaintiff was partially at fault, the plaintiff will still recover against the defendants in proportion to each defendant’s share of fault.
Under a modified comparative fault system, which is what HB 837 will create if a jury determines a plaintiff is more than 50% responsible for their injuries, the plaintiff will be barred from recovering any amount from a negligent defendant even though a jury determines the defendant to be partially at fault for the plaintiff’s injuries.
Bad Faith Laws
Bad faith laws exist to ensure that Florida citizens are safe from unscrupulous business practices of insurance companies.
Specifically, bad faith laws include legal safeguards to hold insurance companies accountable for the wrongful handling of claims that expose their insured customers to unnecessary liability.
The changes included in HB 837 will create protections and immunity in some instances for insurance companies to avoid liability for bad faith.
Medical Damage Caps
HB 837 significantly restricts what evidence is admissible at trial to prove medical treatment and expenses.
The evidence offered to prove the amount of damages for past and future medical treatment in personal injury cases will be limited to amounts actually paid to date, health coverage insurance reimbursement rates, or a formula based upon Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates.
The bill, however, does not require medical providers to accept these rates for a plaintiff’s future care.
Statute of Limitations
For anyone who suffers catastrophic injuries, two years is often not long enough to ascertain the impact of the injuries, obtain medical treatment, evaluate future treatment options, and create a future care plan.
This change will likely result in the filing of more lawsuits that could have been resolved pre-suit. In turn, this could lead to longer litigation timeframes if victims are still treated for their injuries during the pendency of litigation and judges have larger caseloads than before.
While these changes in Florida law are drastic and will be largely unfair to Florida citizens, the lawyers at Baggett Law Personal Injury Lawyers have significant and specialized experience litigating complex legal issues in personal injury cases.
We know that every case requires a winning strategy and a detailed game plan. If you or someone you know needs a strong advocate, contact the team at Baggett Law Personal Injury Lawyers today.
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