On March 24, 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 837. The new legislation makes significant changes to Florida tort law–the law that governs personal injury cases and similar claims for damages. If you are injured through someone else’s negligence and want to pursue compensation, the best next step is to talk to an experienced local personal injury attorney right away.
Here is some general information about how Florida tort reform will impact injury victims and others with tort claims in Florida.
Key Changes in Florida Injury Law
Two changes in the law will have the greatest impact on accident victims in Florida. The amended statute allows people who have been injured less time to file a personal injury claim, and cuts off access to damages for some people who were partly responsible for their own injuries.
New Legislation Cuts the Time to File a Personal Injury Claim
Florida has long had one of the more generous statutes of limitations for personal injury claims. Until the new law took effect, people harmed by someone else’s negligence had four years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. Now, the time to file has been cut in half, to just two years.
What if I Was Injured More than Two Years Ago?
The new statute of limitations applies to claims that accrue after the effective date of the statute. That means there’s no need to panic if you were injured in early 2021 and may be about to pass–or have already passed–the two-year mark. If your claim accrued before March 24, 2023, it is still governed by the old four-year statute of limitations.
In some types of cases, it can be difficult for someone inexperienced with the legal system to know exactly when their cause of action accrued. So, it’s still wise to get advice from a knowledgeable local accident attorney as soon as possible.
If you were injured after the new statute took effect, the two-year limitation applies to your case. If you let that time pass, you will not be able to file a lawsuit and pursue compensation for your injuries.
The timelines may be confusing for a while because, for example, someone whose cause of action accrued on January 1, 2022 might have until December 31, 2025 to file a personal injury lawsuit. But, someone who was injured on April 1, 2023 would typically be facing a deadline of March 31, 2025. So, it’s more important than ever to talk with a local personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to make sure you understand the time limits in your case.
An End to Pure Comparative Fault in Florida
Florida has long followed a “pure comparative fault” model in cases where the injured party was partly responsible for the incident that caused their injuries. Under the pure comparative fault model, an injury victim would be entitled to collect damages even if they were the party at fault. However, damages would be reduced in proportion to their fault.
For example, under the old model, someone who was 75% responsible for their own injuries could have filed and won a personal injury case against the person who was 25% responsible. But, the compensation would have been reduced to 25% of the total damages. In other words, if someone suffered $100,000 in damages but was 75% responsible, they could still look to collect $25,000–25% of their damages–from the person who bore less responsibility. The person who was 25% responsible could, in turn, counter-sue for 75% of their own damages.
Under the new modified comparative fault system, damages will still be reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to the injured person. However, if the injured person is found to be more than 50% responsible, they cannot recover any damages. In the scenario above, that would mean the person who was 25% responsible could still potentially recover 75% of their damages. But, the person who was 75% at fault would receive nothing.
Other Changes to Florida Tort Law
The legislation also made changes to the standards for establishing a bad faith claim against an insurance company, and to how attorney’s fees are calculated in certain types of cases.
Bad Faith Insurance Claims
When you purchase insurance coverage, your insurer agrees to pay for certain types of losses under specific circumstances. If the insurer doesn’t live up to that responsibility, or doesn’t comply with Florida insurance law, you may have a bad faith claim. This includes failing to make a good-faith attempt to settle a claim that should have been covered.
However, not every failure to pay a claim rises to the level of bad faith. And, under the new law, the bar for establishing a bad faith claim is higher. For example, the new legislation provides that:
- Negligence on the part of the insurance carrier is insufficient to establish bad faith
- No bad faith action is available if the carrier offers either policy limits or the amount demanded by the injured party within 90 days of actual notice of the claim
- The insurer is not subject to bad faith claims in multi-party cases if it has complied with new standards applied to this type of claims.
Attorney’s Fees in Certain Case Types
The new law also impacts the way attorney’s fees are awarded in certain types of cases where the defendant may be ordered to pay those fees. This change won’t impact most injury victims, their cases, or their attorney fee agreements, since contingent fees in most personal injury cases are a matter of contract and are not awarded by courts.
What Does Tort Reform Mean for Florida Injury Victims?
The new law sets up some hurdles for Florida accident victims, including cutting the time to file a claim, cutting off compensation for people who are more than half responsible for the event that caused the damages, and making it more difficult to pursue bad faith insurance claims. The law also makes some other changes that impact personal injury cases, including complex new standards for evidence of medical expenses and presumptions that will make it tougher to sue some property managers for third-party criminal acts that occur on their property.
The best way to get information about your rights and options under current Florida law is to talk to an experienced Florida injury lawyer as soon as possible after your accident. You can schedule a free consultation with one of our accident lawyers right now by calling 904-251-1111 or filling out the contact form on this site.