This past Friday, March 24th, 2023, Ron DeSantis signed HB 837 which will have major repercussions for victims seeking compensation in personal injury cases. The controversial bill claims to reduce the amount of ‘frivolous’ lawsuits but in actuality shifts the accountability of insurance companies to burden injured victims.
HB 837 means that the statute of limitations for negligence cases is lowered, places a cap on medical fees and damages, and seeks to repeal legislation 627.428. These changes will have a significant impact on the way personal injury cases are handled in the state of Florida.
One of the major changes Florida HB 837 introduces is the statute of limitations for negligence cases is reduced from four years to two years. Previously, victims had four years from the date of an accident to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. However, this bill shortens that timeframe to just two years. This means that victims have less time to gather evidence, build their cases, and seek justice for the harm caused. It also significantly impacts those who may not have realized the extent of the injuries or cause of their condition until after the two-year mark. This means that victims of negligence will have a shorter period of time to file a lawsuit, and will make it easier for insurance companies to dismiss or push off cases to kill time while the victim racks up attorney’s fees.
Another significant change included in Florida HB 837 is the cap placed on medical fees and damages. The House Bill changes Florida tort law so there is a monetary limit placed on the amount victims can be awarded for medical treatment that was sought due to a personal injury or negligence case. This has a far-reaching impact not just on victims seeking reimbursement but kills free market pricing for medical practices and medical services. HB 837 proposes to calculate medical fees and damages based on Medicare costs, which are often significantly lower than the actual cost incurred by medical providers. This could lead to medical practices losing money if they treat patients injured in accidents, or discourage them from providing treatment at all if it means they will not be properly paid for their service. Victims may not receive the full financial amount of compensation needed to cover medical expenses, and medical practices may be unable to recoup the cost of services provided.
While Florida HB 837 introduces changes, it will also repeal legislation 627.428, which requires insurance companies to compensate for attorney’s fees for the insured or beneficiary who has been harmed. This means that insurance companies will no longer have to pay the legal fees of their clients, making it more difficult for injured victims to receive compensation for their injuries. Overall, this favors insurance companies and large corporations that can afford legal representation and makes it significantly more difficult for Florida citizens to exercise their rights to court access. Repealing legislation 627.428 encourages insurance companies and victims to settle claims outside of court, as the insurer is no longer required to pay for their policyholder’s legal fees.
This bill also changes the comparative fault rates. Previously, victims could seek recovery from damages even if they were partially at fault for the incident which caused their injuries. Under the new House Bill 837 though, victims who are even 51% at fault may not be able to recover any damage at all. This change significantly impacts victims who may have contributed to their injuries in some way, even unintentionally, but whose accidents did not cause the incident in the first place.
Overall, Florida HB 837 introduces major reform to personal injury law in West Palm Beach and the state of Florida. These changes will make it more difficult for victims of personal injury cases to seek justice and compensation while not holding insurance companies and large corporations accountable. It is important to understand these changes and seek expert legal advice if you’ve been injured in an accident in order to receive the compensation you deserve.