HB 837 Signed into Law: Its Impact On A Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Claim

Victims of personal injuries and their families struggle with the physical and psychological aftermath of accidents or incidents that are not their fault. They cope with the pain, suffering, and disruption of their daily lives while experiencing the strain of mounting medical bills, lost wages, and the uncertainty of their future financial stability. During these times, seeking justice and financial relief offers a glimmer of hope in their journey towards recovery. Amidst the challenges these victims face, legislative changes can have a significant impact.

New Law Enacted

On March 24, 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law HB 837, The Florida Tort Reform Act 2023, as a step toward reforming the state’s tort laws. It addresses concerns regarding excessive damage awards, rising insurance costs, and frivolous lawsuits and abuse. Under Florida law, a judge decides if a lawsuit is frivolous if a claim is not supported by the material facts necessary or not supported by the law. HB 837 is expected to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits in Florida that negatively impact the insurance marketplace. The law went into effect immediately for all causes of action filed after March 24, 2023.

Some of the Components of this New Law are:

  • Changes in the Florida’s Comparative Negligence System
  • Instituting uniform standards for calculating medical damages
  • Bad faith reform in favor of insurance carriers
  • Limiting attorney’s fee awards
  • Reducing the Statute of Limitations for general negligence cases

Change Is Not Always Positive

Opponents of this new law believe there will likely be serious ramifications for victims of personal injury and wrongful death. Examples are:

  • Bad faith reform would limit the safeguards that protect insurance policyholders from greedy insurers. When reforms make it more challenging for policyholders to prove bad faith on the part of insurers, it reduces the accountability of insurance companies. It increases financial hardship for claimants during critical times.
  • Putting a cap on lawyer’s fees can limit the legal oversight of policyholders and lessen pressure on insurers to handle claims fairly. It tips the balance in favor of insurers during negotiations or legal proceedings and incentivizes insurance companies to delay, deny, or underpay claims.
  • Providing uniform standards for calculating medical damages for injuries would limit the information a jury has regarding the actual cost of medical care. It does not adequately represent the full extent of the plaintiff’s medical expenses, pain and suffering, or long-term care needs and can result in under-compensation for the plaintiff.
  • Changing the comparative negligence system can hurt plaintiffs in personal injury cases in several ways. With the new law, plaintiffs responsible for more than 50% of their injuries will not recover damages from the defendant, excluding medical negligence cases. When the comparative negligence system is less favorable to victims, they may be inclined to resist filing a claim or accept lower settlement offers from defendants and insurance companies.
  • Reducing the Statute of Limitations from four years to two would shorten the time window to initiate legal proceedings. Victims may miss the deadline and lose their right to pursue compensation or hold wrongdoers accountable. In addition, victims may struggle to gather evidence and build a strong case within the shortened timeframe.

When Life Takes an Unexpected Turn, Call Woodard & Ferguson

If you are the victim of a personal injury or have lost a loved one through a negligent or malicious act, it is crucial to act quickly. With more than five decades of collective legal experience, the legal team at Woodard & Ferguson is here to stand as beacons of hope for those experiencing personal tragedy and loss. With compassion, dedication, and unwavering commitment, we are here to guide you through the legal journey ahead. Contact Woodard & Ferguson at (386) 677-0822 to schedule a confidential appointment at our Ormond Beach, Florida, office.

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