Explaining Florida’s Recent Personal Injury Law Changes
In March 2023, Florida’s governor signed some major reforms into law in the area of personal injury. Personal injury is the area of law that deals with negligence – cases like auto accidents and medical malpractice fall under this larger umbrella. It is in this area that injured plaintiffs may recover damages for what they have been through – but rightly or wrongly, the three major reforms signed into law all have the potential to limit a potential plaintiff’s recovery.
Statute Of Limitations Is Shorter
The statute of limitations is the law which limits the amount of time in which a person can file a lawsuit – while it may seem unfair to have one at all for some cases, it is necessary at times simply because evidence decays and memories fade. Previously, the limit was four years; under the newly signed legislation, the limit will drop to two years from the date of the accident. While this may still seem like a large enough chunk of time, in reality, that period will often pass even before an injured plaintiff is in an appropriate physical and psychological place to file suit. It is possible that this change will lock some injured plaintiffs out of any recovery.
Comparative Fault Rules Have Changed
Comparative fault is a concept that allows a person who may have been partially negligent in causing their own injuries to still recover for the amount of the defendant’s responsibility. For example, if a plaintiff is ruled to have been 10 percent at fault for their own injuries, a Florida court would allow them to still recover 90 percent of their damages from the defendant.
In the past, as long as the defendant was at least 1 percent liable, a plaintiff could recover damages. With the changes, a plaintiff can be no more than 50 percent responsible for their own injuries (except in medical malpractice cases) – in other words, if they are ruled to be 51 percent at fault, the plaintiff recovers nothing. In some cases this may seem appropriate, but in others, the percentage of fault may hang on very thin evidence.
New “Strong Presumption” On Attorney Fees
Another less immediate concern for plaintiffs is that with the March bill, a “strong presumption” in favor of attorney’s fees calculated without contingency modifiers is “reasonable and appropriate.” What this means for the average person is that attorneys will be less able to obtain contingency fees or any other fee not based exclusively on the number of hours worked on a claim. This can and does already stop some plaintiffs from being able to file suit simply because attorneys will see the cost is not worth the potential reward.
Contact An Orlando Personal Injury Attorney
While it remains to be seen what the actual outcome of these reforms is, as they begin to take effect in the Florida legal system, it is still crucial for potential plaintiffs to be aware of the changes and their potential effects. If you have questions about a personal injury lawsuit, an Orlando personal injury attorney from the Hornsby Law Group can try to get those questions answered. Call our office today for a free consultation.