Once again, tort reform has made it tougher for victims of Florida car accidents to sue and collect fair damages for their losses. In order to get this passed the legislature has inaccurately pointed the finger at the allegation of frivolous Florida injury lawsuits and sky-high compensation payouts as the cause of high customer insurance premiums.
Reality check: Insurers are doing just fine. They even contributed $7 plus million to Florida politicians last year. Furthermore, the amount of insurance premiums paid by customers has little to do with accident claim payouts. It has a lot more to do with insurer profit margins.
Time and again, we’ve seen legislation enacted that makes it harder to sue and collect fair compensation against negligent motorists, businesses, and doctors – but fails to lower insurance premiums. Take for instance the Florida law passed in 2003 to limit medical malpractice pain-and-suffering damage payouts. At the time, state lawmakers insisted there was a “crisis” facing medical malpractice insurers that forced the industry to charge doctors super high premiums, to the point doctors had no choice but to relocate their practices out-of-state. This was all justified by basically arguing that greedy patients and plaintiff lawyers were exploiting medical malpractice insurance for big bucks. In a 2014 overturning of those damage caps, the Florida Supreme Court blasted lawmakers for their initial reasons for passing the law – while also noting it never made a dent in doctors’ insurance bills. In Estate of McCall v. U.S., the Court called the lawmakers’ justifications “arbitrary” and “irrational,” and an “offense to the fundamental notion of equal justice under the law.” In that 5-2 opinion, the court noted the effect of saving a modest amount for many meant imposing devastating costs on the few – namely those catastrophically injured. “If there ever was an alleged medical malpractice crisis” in the first place, the Court remarked skeptically in its reversal, there wasn’t one anymore.
But state lawmakers haven’t stopped trying to use this as a justification for ongoing efforts to make life easier for insurers. In the years since, they’ve continued pressing measures reducing both liability and damage awards for dangerous property conditions, car accidents, and work injuries. They’ve also targeted payouts from life and health insurance.
Now, proponents of this new law have promised that it will help eliminate the so-called “tort tax” imposed on citizens – something that doesn’t actually exist.
As you can imagine, our Fort Myers personal injury lawyers are among the many trial lawyers who strongly opposed this legislation. We believe that these new laws will disenfranchise people who have suffered serious injuries because of someone else’s wrongdoing. It’s not just lawyers, though. Other vocal opponents include doctors, bicyclists, and previous car accident victims – many of whom showed up in significant numbers at state committee hearings on the issue.
What Exactly Will this the Law Do?
The legislation – House Bill 837 and Senate Bill 236 – has made it more difficult to file, win, and fairly collect on well-founded Florida injury lawsuits. These bills were fast-tracked by lawmakers and quickly signed into law by Governor Desantis.