How Florida’s Recent Tort Reform Legislation Affects Your Car Accident Claim

February 15, 2024

In March of last year, Governor DeSantis signed a sweeping tort reform bill into law that brought significant changes to how personal injury cases are handled, including car accident claims. These changes affect everything from the evidence required to support a claim to the defenses that can be raised, all with a focus on reducing the compensation that can be awarded to accident victims. Failing to understand these changes can cost you your rights to compensation. If you have been injured in a car accident, you need a car accident attorney who knows how to navigate these new laws so that you can get the compensation you deserve.   

A Major Change to Florida’s Statute of Limitations

Florida’s statute of limitations is the law that sets the deadline for filing a lawsuit. Different types of cases have different statutes of limitations, including both civil and criminal cases. For example, the statute of limitations in Florida for a breach of contract action is five years, while the statute of limitations in an assault case is only two years. It is important to understand how the statute of limitations applies to your case because you could lose all of your rights to pursue legal action if you do not file a lawsuit before the statute expires (i.e. before the deadline contained in the statute). 

For personal injury claims, Florida’s tort reform legislation cut the prior four-year statute of limitations in half. This means that people who have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence must file a lawsuit within two years of the date of their accident or they will lose all of their rights to pursue a claim for compensation. 

The new statute of limitations is a significant limitation of victim’s rights, but advocates for the change point to the fact that 44 other states have statutes of limitations of less than four years for negligence cases. Fair or not, two years is not a lot of time. As a result, you should contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your case as soon as possible if you have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence. 

New Requirements for Claiming Medical Damages

Another goal of the tort reform legislation was to promote greater transparency and to establish uniform standards for how current and future medical damages should be calculated. These new requirements have radically changed how accident victims claim medical damages in personal injury cases: 

  • Victims must disclose any letters of protection, whether they were referred for treatment under the letter of protection, and who made the referral. 
  • The law limits the scope of evidence that victims can introduce to prove current and future medical expenses. This includes limiting evidence to what has actually been paid by insurance of the maximum that will be paid by insurance. 
  • The victim must disclose whether they had health insurance at the time of the accident. 

These are just some of the key highlights of how Florida’s tort reform legislation will impact your claim. There are many other complexities that come into play depending on things such as whether you have Medicare or Medicaid or whether you have insurance at all. It is important to note that the purpose of these changes was to reduce the amount of compensation that insurers pay on claims. As a result, it is more important than ever to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to maximize the compensation you are entitled to. 

A New Contributory Negligence Standard

In many car accident cases, both parties may share fault in causing the accident. This is referred to as “contributory negligence” in legal terms. Contributory negligence involves complex legal theories that have evolved over the years and vary by jurisdiction. There are three basic contributory negligence rules that determine how compensation will be awarded in a personal injury case: 

  1. Contributory negligence: If an injured party was negligent to any degree in causing an accident, they are barred from receiving any compensation from the other party involved in the accident. For example, Driver A was seriously injured in a car accident when they changed lanes without looking and were struck by a drunk driver (Driver B)  who was speeding. Even though Driver B could have easily avoided the accident if they were sober and not speeding, Driver A will not be able to recover any compensation from Driver B because their own negligence contributed to causing the accident. 
  2. Pure comparative negligence. Under the pure comparative negligence rule, an injured party’s compensation will be reduced according to the amount that their negligence contributed to the accident. Using the example above, let’s say that it was determined that Driver A’s negligence was 20% of the cause of the accident. Any compensation awarded to Driver A will therefore be reduced by 20%. Under the pure comparative negligence rule, Driver B could also pursue a claim against Driver A, and any compensation they receive would be reduced by 80%. 
  3. Modified comparative negligence. This rule operates the same as the pure comparative negligence rule with an important exception: an injured party is barred from receiving compensation if their negligence contributed more than 50% to the accident. Under the modified rule, Driver B would not be able to pursue a claim against Driver A. 

Florida previously followed the pure comparative negligence rule, but now follows the modified rule as a result of tort reform. While this appears to be a worthwhile change on the surface, the rule becomes more problematic in cases where it is difficult to assign negligence with any certainty. As a result, insurance companies can use contributory negligence as a weapon to encourage plaintiffs to settle claims for far less than they are worth. 

Contact The Grife Law Firm if You Have Been Injured in a Car Accident  

Tort reform in Florida has put accident victims at a disadvantage. The only way to level the playing field is to work with a knowledgeable car accident attorney who knows how to navigate these challenges and get you the compensation you deserve. Call The Grife Law Firm at  561-998-0770 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation if you have been injured in a car accident.