Major changes to state law are going to significantly impact Florida personal injury lawsuit claimants – most of them adversely.
Among the provisions in the new law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on March 24, 2023:
- A shortened statute of limitations in personal injury cases, from four years to file down to two years.
- A less favorable comparative fault standard, going from a pure comparative fault standard to one that includes a 51 percent bar.
- Elimination of bad faith insurers’ duty to pay plaintiff attorneys’ fees except in very limited circumstances.
- Significant reductions in damage awards for defendants in negligent security actions.
For all the accusations of “slick trial lawyers” and “frivolous lawsuits” that were used to justify these actions, the reality is that it’s never been a simple thing to file – or succeed – in a Florida personal injury lawsuit. Not to say it’s impossible, but it does require a fact pattern with strong evidence that supports a conclusion of the defendant’s liability. These provisions were heralded as helping Florida rise above the “judicial hellhole” that it had become. But the reality is it’s going to make it harder for people with legitimate claims to file, win, and collect the full scope of damages to which they’re entitled. It’s certainly a boon for the insurance companies, though.
With respect to the shortened statute of limitations, this is problematic for a few reasons. One is that while four years seems like a long time, complex personal injury lawsuits take a lot of time to thoroughly investigate. Furthermore, one of the reasons for a four-year limit is that settlement negotiations (the way 95 percent of personal injury cases are resolved) can go back and forth for many months or even years. By shortening the statute of limitations, we’re likely to see a glut of personal injury lawsuits filed (within a court system that’s already overwhelmed) so that plaintiffs can ensure their claim is preserved. Settlement negotiations can still continue after a lawsuit is filed (up to and even well into the trial) – but a shorter statute of limitations means more plaintiffs will pursue litigation just so that they don’t lose the option if too much time passes.
Next up is the altered comparative fault standard. This is a big one, and it’s going to impact most personal injury plaintiffs in a negative way. Continue reading