I want to talk about House Bill 837 which was passed on March 24th, 2023, and if you don't know about it Governor DeSantis signed a bill into law that has now extinguished many of the rights of Floridians to have access to the court.

There are a whole bunch of little things that go on within this bill, but I'm going to focus on four of them. Number one, the statute of limitations has now changed from four years to two years. What that means is that if you're injured by the negligence of another, before this bill came into law you had four years to initiate a lawsuit. You might think, well why do I need four years to do it it's either the wrong or the right, there's going to be a lawsuit or there's not going to be a lawsuit. What happens in that time period is someone could be getting medical treatment to see the extent of their damages - two years is now shortening that time. Also, it's shortening the amount of time that an individual can negotiate with an insurance company having to file a lawsuit. The idea is that this law is to get rid of lawsuits, but it actually does the opposite. It makes it so more lawsuits are going to be filed.

Number two, the next point that's important is the repeal of Statute 627.428. Prior to this law becoming an action, if you had to sue your own insurance company and you prevailed, then you got your attorney's fees paid for. That's important because you pay a premium every month to your insurance company. Your insurance company is there to protect you. To do the right thing. After all, they've been taking your money every month. What happens if you don't make a payment? They cancel your insurance. Do they give you your money back? Absolutely not! The old law was created so that insurance companies didn't deny claims or drag out claims. If you had to file a lawsuit and you won, you should at least get your attorney's fees paid for. This is going to take that away.

How might that affect you? Let's say you have a small claim, but it's still a valid claim. Let's say you had a property damage claim or a homeowner's claim that you had to sue your insurance company because they didn't fix the damage that they were insured to do. If the damage cost you five thousand dollars, you could file a lawsuit, hire an attorney, and spend fifteen thousand dollars to get the five thousand dollar judgment. Well, that doesn't make any sense! Why spend fifteen thousand dollars to get five thousand?

Likewise, if you wanted to hire an attorney on a contingency fee, meaning they get a percentage, an attorney is not going to want to take a third of five thousand dollars for just about any litigation case. Overall, the statute repeal favors the insurance company. Insurance companies are now going to delay and deny claims as much as possible because there's no recourse against them.

The third aspect of this case that is important is the cap on medical bills and damages. If you're awarded future medical damage and past medical damages at trial, instead of a doctor having their own billing cost, rates are going to be computed based on Medicare rates. Now, there is nothing anti-free market than dictating what a doctor can or cannot charge for their services. Those who enacted this bill, who championed small business, who championed free enterprise, have done the exact opposite. Actually, they did the most socialist thing that they could do which is tell people what they can charge and tell people that they're not going to be able to get a recovery over a certain amount. 

Additionally, Statute 768.81 takes away a plaintiff's right to recover if they're 51% at fault. Florida previously was what we consider a comparative fault state. What that means is you can only recover as much as the other person was at fault for. This means that if you're in an accident and you were found 10% at fault, you don't get the full amount of your recovery. You get 90% because you were 10% at fault. This is a good rule because it says that you can only recover to the extent that you are not at fault. This would be important in a medical malpractice case where a doctor may only be 25% at fault for an injury, but the individual who was injured by the doctor should be able to recover. Under this statute, that wouldn't happen.

A lot of accidents happen at a four-way intersection where it's unclear who had the right of way. Juries can sometimes have difficulty understanding exactly who's at fault. If you were deemed 51% at fault while the other party was 49% at fault and you suffered a major injury, you need to recover. You need help from the other party’s insurance company because they were 49% at fault, but you don't get that anymore. This is also going to have a chilling effect on those who need help. 

House Bill 837 is going to have very long-term consequences on Floridians’  individual rights and their access to the court system. If you think you may have a claim, give us a call and let us evaluate your situation. We’re more than happy to help ascertain whether or not you may be entitled to compensation, as well as answer any questions you may have. You can also review our guide for more information on determining what your Personal Injury case may be worth.