Steven A. Bagen | June 14, 2023 | Personal Injury
Recent changes to laws in Florida are affecting personal injury cases. As a personal injury victim, this overhaul of legislation relating to tort and negligence claims can have a widespread effect on your rights and how you seek and prove damages through a personal injury lawsuit.
Lawyers across the state are working to understand the complexities of these new laws and how they can affect their clients’ cases moving forward. If you are a victim of an accident, contact a personal injury toxic torts lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your rights and whether these changes to Florida tort law affect your case.
Sweeping Changes to Laws on Personal Injury Cases
Personal injury cases fall under the tort laws of Florida. A tort is an action by one party that causes harm to a victim and creates a legal basis for the victim to pursue damages created by the harm.
The Florida legislature recently passed several laws that affect various aspects of tort law and the rights of individuals to seek damages against the parties that may be responsible.
Some of the recently enacted laws are significantly different than in the past, and it may surprise accident victims who are unaware of the changes and how the new laws apply in their case. All of the newly enacted legislation went into effect as of March 24, 2023, and applies to new personal injury cases filed as of the date but does not apply retroactively to cases filed before that date.
Therefore, if you have a personal injury lawsuit filed in court before this date, the changes do not apply to that case
Significant Reduction to the Statute of Limitations
One of the most drastic changes to tort laws in Florida with the newly enacted legislation is reducing the time allowable under the statute of limitations. Previously, Florida had a generous statute of limitations compared to other jurisdictions in the U.S.
Before the changes to the law, a plaintiff had up to four years from the date of a personal injury incident to file a lawsuit in court for damages against the wrongdoers.
The new legislative language in H.B. 837 now cuts that time in half. Personal injury victims in Florida now have only two years from the date of an accident causing personal injury to file a legal action in court against a defendant.
The statute of limitations in Florida on actions arising from negligence is now two years from the date of discovery of the injury or the date the injury should reasonably be discovered. This drastic reduction in the time period requires victims to act with more haste following a personal injury accident.
By contacting a personal injury attorney as soon as possible following a personal injury accident, you can rest assured your case remains within the statute of limitations guidelines, and you can preserve your rights to seek damages against the parties responsible.
Extensive Modifications to Negligence Standards and Plaintiff Rights
In the past, Florida’s negligence laws allowed a plaintiff in a personal injury action to seek damages for any portion of the harm caused by another party. Even in cases where the plaintiff’s actions contributed to their harm, a victim could still seek damages following the percentage of fault attributed to another party for their negligence.
The changes to these negligence standards now add an additional burden for a plaintiff to pursue compensation under the law. It is no longer enough that another party’s action amounted to negligence and contributed to your injuries in some way. Under the modified rules on negligence actions in Florida, you must now prove your percentage of fault is less than that of the other parties involved.
What Is Modified Comparative Negligence?
Florida’s new legislation that guides personal injury matters adopts a Modified Comparative Negligence standard. Under the prior laws, a plaintiff could seek compensation in any circumstance where another party caused part of their damages, but the amount of their compensation would deduct their percentage of fault for the incident. However, under current legislation, there are circumstances where a court may bar some plaintiffs from recovering any compensation depending on the apportionment of fault.
Under the new rules, if a plaintiff is more than 50 percent to blame for the injuries they sustained, they can no longer seek any compensation against a defendant for their damages.
This is a significant change from prior laws and can harm personal injury victims’ rights in the state. However, in cases where a defendant is most at fault for the damages to a plaintiff, the plaintiff can continue to seek recovery of their damages against the defendant for the accident.
These legal changes can create circumstances in which insurance companies and defendants push more than ever before to show a plaintiff’s 51 percent fault threshold to avoid any liability for the harm to a victim.
A personal injury attorney can fight against unfair determinations of fault that could prevent victims from seeking compensation for their damages. For cases involving medical negligence, the broader law still applies, and a plaintiff can pursue recovery against a defendant for any percentage of fault.
More Protections for Insurance Companies
In the past, Florida provided extensive protections for insureds against bad-faith actions from insurance companies during the claims process. Recent changes to the laws, however, flip the roles and place additional burdens and challenges on plaintiffs seeking to prove bad faith on the part of the insurers.
One of the biggest changes to bad faith actions is that a plaintiff can no longer allege bad faith on the part of an insurance company based solely on claims of negligence of an insurer or its representative during the claims process.
In addition to the changes to prove bad faith on the part of an insurer, the new legislation now creates a safe harbor for insurance companies to address and avoid a bad faith allegation made by a plaintiff.
Under this provision, an insurance company now has a 90-day window to pay out a claim after they receive notice of a plaintiff taking a bad faith action against them. The amount the insurance company must pay under the legislation is either the policy limit or the amount demanded by the plaintiff if it is less than the policy’s limitation.
Protections for Property Owners in Premises Liability Cases
Specific provisions of the newly enacted legislation address certain personal injury cases under premises liability laws. A newly created presumption in favor of multi-dwelling landlords and property owners in premises liability cases can make it more difficult for injury victims to file actions for negligence against property owners relating to the security of a location.
If a property owner takes certain security measures, there is a presumption that they are not liable for the damages to a victim for any injury or harm that occurs to them by a third party. The property owner only has the burden of proving they met the security measures delineated in the statute.
Examples of security measures necessary under the legislation include:
- Security cameras
- Lighting in parking lots and common areas
- Deadbolts in each unit
- Window locks
- Locked gates in pool areas
- Door viewer for each unit without door-facing windows
- Crime prevention design assessment
- Training for crime prevention and deterrence for employees of the multi-dwelling complex
Increased Challenges to Proving Certain Medical Damages
Aside from changes in when a plaintiff can bring an action for damages in negligence cases, the changes to the law also reflect differences in how a plaintiff can prove the damages in a personal injury case. The new legislation specifically addresses the topic of medical damages in personal injury claims. In the past, victims could prove their medical losses for past, current and future damages using various methods of calculations and proof.
Now the legislation provides guidelines specifically applicable to how the plaintiff can determine the damages for medical bills and expenses and the types of evidence that will be admissible in proving those damages as part of a personal injury case.
A personal injury attorney can help you understand how the law applies in your case and can help you gather the evidence necessary to claim the appropriate compensation for your medical-related losses and expenses.
How Can Florida’s Tort Reform Laws Affect Your Case?
Much of the anxiety and worry surrounding the changes in Florida’s tort laws pertains to the effect it will have on victims seeking compensation for the damages they incur due to the negligence of others. The reality is that certain aspects of the law have the potential to affect more people than others.
Indeed, certain victims may now face challenges in getting the compensation they deserve because of additional limitations and restrictions enacted by the new law. However, it is impossible to generalize the effects of these laws on all personal injury victims. Every case is different, and the changes in tort laws may not affect every individual victim in the same way, if at all.
To fully comprehend the law’s effects on your case, you must consult a personal injury lawyer about your case. Do not assume anything and get direct answers from a lawyer that understands these legislative changes and how the changes apply under the facts of your case.
When Should You Call a Lawyer if You Are an Injury Victim?
Now more than ever, if you are a personal injury victim in Florida, act quickly and contact a personal injury attorney to schedule a consultation about your case. The shortened statute of limitations pressures you to seek help from an attorney as early as possible for your claim.
Your lawyer can help you immediately after an injury occurs, filing an accident claim with an insurer and attempting to resolve the case outside of court if possible. If it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit, your lawyer can advise you as to the next steps and file the suit following the time limitations in force by the statute to protect your rights.
Is It Still Worth Fighting for Compensation for Your Damages?
Absolutely. Although the changes to tort laws in Florida may seem discouraging and appear to be not worth fighting for your compensation, that is not the case. As an injury victim, you have rights, and you should speak with a lawyer to understand your options and take the steps you can to fight for the compensation you may be eligible for under the law.
Although more guidelines and restrictions can present a challenge in certain cases, nothing prevents you from contacting an attorney for further guidance on your personal injury case and rights. If you qualify to seek compensation, a lawyer can prepare a claim, negotiate for a possible settlement, and file a lawsuit should the need present itself.
As a personal injury victim, you can face overwhelming medical bills, income losses, and other burdensome damages that cause you financial difficulty. You do not have to accept those losses as your own when you suffer harm because of the negligence of another party or individual.
Consult a personal injury lawyer to determine how Florida’s current tort laws apply in your case and what you should do next to take action against the parties responsible.
If you are a personal injury victim in Florida and have concerns or questions about your case or how the new laws could affect your claim or lawsuit, contact a personal injury attorney in Gainesville for a free case review to discuss your options.