Tort Reform Blames Accident Victims – Motorcyclists Beware!

Changes to Florida’s comparative negligence law will impact the rights of car accident victims found partially at fault for a collision. Changes will also significantly impact the rights of motorcyclists as the summer riding season gets underway. ambulance-300x201

Florida’s new tort reform law went into effect March 24. Whenever you hear tort reform, you can be assured lawmakers are limiting the rights of injury victims to recover compensation under the guise of protecting corporations from trial lawyers. The reality is that studies continue to show that large jury verdicts have little impact on the overall costs and profits of large insurance corporations. Limiting the rights of victims is just a handout to lobbyists and large insurers, which are routinely among the largest donors to political campaigns in Florida.

Among the most egregious changes (and there are many), is that Florida now follows a modified comparative negligence standard, rather than a pure comparative negligence standard. Under previous law, a victim found to be partially at fault could still collect damages in proportion to the liability of an at-fault motorist. So even if a victim was found at 80 percent fault, he or she could still recover 20 percent damages from another at-fault motorist and his or her insurance carrier. Under the new law, victims found at majority fault (50.1 percent) will be barred from seeking a recovery.

Modified Comparative Negligence

The new law can hold victims accountable when found partially at fault for causing an accident or resulting injuries. Motorcycle riders face among the most serious consequences in cases of serious head injuries when a helmetless rider is involved in a collision with an at-fault driver, despite the fact that riding without a helmet is legal for most adult riders in Florida. Even when another driver causes an accident, a rider’s decision to not wear a helmet could be used against him in court and could result in a complete loss of the ability to collect damages.

During the legislative hearings, there were at least 4 separate amendments to exempt  helmetless motorcyclists who complied with the helmet law – s. 316.211 – from the new contributory negligence law.  All the amendments were voted down by the Republican majorities in both the House and Senate.

Other legal changes include:

  • Statute of limitations: Reduces the time to file negligence actions from four years to two years. Pursuant to § 95.031, Florida Statutes (2022), a cause of action accrues when the last element constituting the cause of action occurs.
  • Bad Faith: Creates Florida Statute § 624.155 (4)(b), which limits a claimant’s rights to sue for bad faith when insurance companies do not act in good faith to settle a claim. This was a vital protection for victims, who could collect additional compensation when insurance companies did not act in good faith to settle claims.
  • Changes to admissibility of Medical Evidence: Makes changes to what victims can present to prove past medical bills or damages related to future medical treatments or services.
  • Attorney fees: Limits and changes to how attorney fees are calculated, which could impact a victim’s ability to obtain the best available legal representation.
  • Premises liability: Protections in many cases against negligent security lawsuits for owners of multifamily residential properties.

The law applies to all types of personal injury claims and makes it even more important to choose an experienced personal injury lawyer in Fort Myers with the staff and resources to conduct a thorough investigation of all factors of causation in preparation for what will certainly be routine challenges by insurance companies and defense attorneys when any hint of victim liability can be built into a defense around comparative negligence.

If you or a loved one is injured, call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

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