The changes to the law that now impact Florida personal injury claims have gone into effect. These were signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis in late March. The changes will have a significant impact on Florida personal injury lawsuit claims moving forward – most of them adversely.
Changes to the Law That Now Impact Florida Personal Injury Claims
- Injured victims time to seek recovery in personal injury claims went from four years down to two years. It does not matter if there are ongoing negotiations. Or even if the injured party is still seeking treating at the end of two years. A failure to timely file a lawsuit will extinguish the right to recovery)
- The law previously required people pay for their portion of negligent harm they caused . Now, a negligent actor can escape all payment if the claimant is found over 50% responsible for their own injuries. For example, in a mixed fault car crash where one driver is 51% negligent and the other driver was 49% negligent – under the new law, the driver who is 49% at fault pays nothing.
- The elimination of bad faith insurer’s duty to pay plaintiff attorney’s fees except in very limited circumstances.
- Significant limitations in negligent security actions which make it harder for injured victims to recover.
Changes to the Law
For all the banter of frivolous lawsuits and flippant trial attorneys, the reality is that a personal injury claim has never been a simple thing to file or prove. A claim takes time and money. They often carry the risk of costs being assessed against an injured claimant who brings a claim and loses. Every case we’ve ever agreed to handle requires a fact pattern backed by strong evidence. It needs to support the liability of a defendant and verifiable injuries to a claimant. These new provisions have been heralded as reform. However, the reality is often that real injuries and claims often get less compensation. And in many instances, no compensation at all. It will be harder for people with legitimate claims to file, win, and collect the full scope of damages to which they are entitled.
Florida Personal Injury Claims Statute of Limitations
Four years may seem like a long time, but complex personal injury cases can take a considerable amount of time to investigate. Furthermore, settlements (the way most personal injury cases are resolved) can go back and forth for months or even years. In many instances, catastrophically injured claimants will not even know the full extent of their injuries for months or even years. Often they must continue to undergo surgeries and other treatments. Shortening the statute of limitations to two years has unintended consequences. It can flood the courts with cases that might otherwise be resolved.
Comparative Fault Standard
Previously we had a standard of pure comparative fault, which means you could still collect damages for injuries caused by someone else’s negligence even if you shared the blame. Even if you were 99 percent liable, you would still collect 1 percent for your overall damages. While at face value, this may seem excessive, people were only liable to pay for their portion of fault. So, in the scenario of a plaintiff being 99 percent liable, they would only be able to collect 1 percent of their overall damages. That doesn’t make for a strong case – or one that’s likely to be filed or pursued. But now, we have a 51 percent bar.
If you are determined to be 51 percent or more responsible for your own injuries, you are completely barred from collecting anything. That means a driver who is 49 percent responsible for a crash is no longer held accountable for ANY damages. It’s going to significantly reduce the amount insurers must pay, particularly in common cases like car accidents where it is common to have mixed fault.
Bad Faith Insurance Claims
With bad faith insurance actions and the elimination of plaintiff attorneys’ fees, this will mean much lower damages for plaintiffs. And it will mean less for insurers to pay. The hammer of a bad faith claim is often the only way to make sure well-funded insurance companies live up to their contracts. Removing fees on insurance claims means you will have fewer lawyers willing to pursue those claims without pre-payment. And most people cannot afford to pre-pay their lawyer. This means that insurance companies are less likely to pay claims. And when they do pay, they are much more likely to underpay claims, or unnecessarily delay payment of valid claims.
Reduction in Damage Awards in Negligent Security Claims
Negligent security claims arise when a business fails to take reasonable steps to provide basic security for customers to protect them from reasonably foreseeable criminal activity. It seems common sense for a business to take reasonable steps to protect the customers coming to their business to spend money. A lack of security leaves customers vulnerable to a criminal attack. As civil trial attorneys that have regularly represented victims of sexual assault that could have easily been prevented with simple and cost-effective measures like proper lighting and security cameras, this concerns us greatly. This new change in the law will allow jurors to apportion some of the blame in the case onto the perpetrator. That makes as much sense as allowing a hotel to have sharks in its pool, and when a swimmer gets eaten, asking the jury to blame the shark, not the hotel.
These changes will mean that pursuing civil cases and collecting appropriate damages in Florida will be harder. That’s why, it’s more important than ever to hire a qualified and experienced South Florida or Southwest Florida personal injury attorney to represent you.
At Weinstein & Cohen, we have more than 50 years of combined experience fighting for victim’s rights. Our experienced Miami and Naples personal injury attorneys at Weinstein & Cohen will put your priorities first. If you or someone you care about has been injured or involved in an accident across South Florida or Southwest Florida, contact the Miami and Naples personal injury lawyers at Weinstein & Cohen at 305-374-1011 or 239-793-3331, or visit fairnessforall.com for an absolutely free legal consultation to learn more about your options.