Tort Reform Comes to Florida
On March 24, 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law sweeping tort reforms in the state of Florida. What exactly is tort reform?
Tort reform refers to changes in Florida’s civil justice system that almost always intend to limit the amount of damages that can be awarded to injured plaintiffs. Tort reform has always been a controversial issue. Supporters of tort reform argue that it is necessary to reduce the burden on the court system and limit the amount of money injured plaintiffs can receive in damages.
Opponents of tort reform argue that laws that limit access to justice for injured parties and reduces their ability to receive fair compensation for damages. Opponents further argue that putting a limit on damages and other restrictions disproportionately affect the most vulnerable members of society.
It has also been stated that tort reform reduces accountability for corporations, medical professionals, negligent parties and others, making it easier for these types of entities to engage in negligent behavior without consequences.
The beneficiaries of tort reform legislation in Florida are primarily insurance companies, businesses, and some healthcare providers who may see lower costs as a result of the reduced number of lawsuits and limits on damages.
Some of the major changes that occurred in Florida on March 24, 2023, are as follows:
- Statute of limitations: Reduces the statute of limitations from 4 years to 2 years for general negligence cases.
- Comparative negligence: Modifies Florida’s comparative negligence system from a “pure” comparative negligence system to a “modified” system. For example, if an injured party is found to be more than 50% at fault, then such party will not be able to recover any damages. The previous comparative negligence law would allow an injured party to receive some compensation, even if they were 75% responsible, providing them with 25% monetary damages.
- Medical bills admissible at trial: Creates uniform standards to assist juries in calculating the actual amount of medical damages in personal injury and wrongful death cases. In other words, injured parties will no longer be able to show to a jury how much the actual amount of medical damages they incurred, but only the amount that was paid.
- Bad Faith Law: Insurance carriers now have 90 days after receiving a Civil Remedy Notice to pay an adequate amount of money damages to injured parties.
- Apartment and Multi-Family Properties: The new law provides protections for owners and operators of apartments and multi-family properties, and will be entitled to a presumption against negligence when certain precautions are taken, such as the following: installing security camera systems, maintaining a lighted parking lot, making lighted walkways, installing at least one-inch deadbolts for each dwelling, installing a locking device on each window, installing locked gates, and installing peep holes or door views.
Although there were other tort reforms legislative changes made in Florida in 2023, none of the changes enhanced or protected victims of negligence.
While supporters of tort reform argue that it will reduce the burden on the court system and lower insurance costs for businesses, individuals, and healthcare providers, opponents of the tort reform legislation contend that it will limit access to justice for injured parties and reduce the injured victims’ ability to receive fair compensation for their damages.
Ultimately, Florida laws have gone through several rounds of tort reform but the truth remains that the insurance rates in Florida, and particularly, auto insurance rates, are among the highest in the nation and have not seen any significant decline despite the passage of laws which claim to put an end to increased premiums.
If you have questions about this yucky thing called tort reform and how it effects your valuable rights, give us a call anytime at (941) 748-5599.