Understanding Florida’s New Tort Reform Law, HB 837
A tort claim is a type of lawsuit in which the plaintiff suffered financial losses because of the defendant’s wrongdoing or negligence. Therefore, tort laws apply to personal injury lawsuits. Gov. DeSantis recently signed into law HB 837, a tort reform law which changes some of the rules that govern personal injury lawsuits. The ostensible purpose of the law is to remedy the previous situation, where businesses and property owners were so vulnerable to being sued that their liability insurance was prohibitively expensive. Because most of the provisions of the new law are restrictions applied to plaintiffs, it is especially important for plaintiffs today to act quickly and strategically in reference to their claims. A Jacksonville personal injury lawyer can help you pursue your personal injury claim successfully in the current legal climate.
What Is Modified Comparative Negligence?
Comparative negligence means that, if both the plaintiff and the defendant are partially at fault for the plaintiff’s losses, the plaintiff can recover damages proportional to the defendant’s share of fault for the accident. For example, if you get injured in a car accident that is 20 percent your fault, you can sue the other driver and recover damages equal to 80 percent of your accident-related losses. Until HB 837 went into effect, Florida was a pure comparative negligence state, which meant that, if you were 90 percent at fault for the accident, you could still sue the other driver for the other 10 percent. Under the new law, Florida is a modified comparative negligence state, which means that you can only sue if the accident was less than 50 percent your fault.
A Shorter Statute of Limitations for Most Personal Injury Cases
Pursuant to HB 837, the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits is two years, counting from the date of the accident. Certain types of lawsuits will continue to have a longer statute of limitations; for example, the statute of limitations for product liability remains four years from the date of the accidental injury or diagnosis of illness resulting from the defective product.
Attorneys’ Fees Under the New Law
HB 837 makes it more difficult for plaintiffs and their attorneys to engage in contingency agreements, wherein the plaintiff pays the attorney a percentage of the settlement or judgment when the case concludes. The new law requires courts to award damages according to the lodestar method. This means that the court will determine a reasonable number of hours that the attorney should have spent on the case and multiply it by what the court determines is a reasonable hourly rate. If the plaintiff requests a different amount, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to justify this other amount to the court.
Contact Douglas & Douglas About Personal Injury Cases
A North Florida personal injury lawyer can help you collect damages for your accident-related injuries no matter how the laws surrounding personal injury lawsuits change. Contact Douglas & Douglas in Jacksonville, Florida for a free consultation.