Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 837, titled “Civil Remedies”, on March 24, 2023. This new law greatly impacts negligence cases going forward. In understanding the changes outlined in HB 837, the general public can respond more effectively when moving forward with a negligence case. Below is not an exhaustive list of changes outlined in HB 837, but does highlight several of the most notable provisions of the new law.
What Changed Under HB 837?
Modified Comparative Negligence Standard
This new law shifts Florida law from a pure to a modified comparative negligence standard. This means that if the plaintiff is at fault for over half of the claimed damages, they can’t recover. Note that this new standard doesn’t apply to medical negligence claims, nor should it apply to cases that were filed prior to March 24, 2023.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for general negligence claims was reduced from four to two years under HB 837. This makes it even more crucial for plaintiffs to file promptly. Notably, the statute of limitations changes for claims that accrued (incident typically occurred) after March 24, 2023.
Admissible Evidence for Medical Expenses
HB 837 limits the admissible evidence to evidence that the plaintiff truly paid, no matter the source of the payment. This differs from the previous standard, which allowed plaintiffs to include the complete amount of the medical bills charged for their health care services, not taking into account any reductions or adjustments from health insurance or other collateral sources.
Admissible evidence for past unpaid medical bills varies based on whether the plaintiff has Medicare, Medicaid, or healthcare coverage. If the plaintiff doesn’t have Medicare, Medicaid, or health insurance, admissible evidence may include what 120% of the Medicare reimbursement rate would have been.
The final version of HB 837 allows for the introduction of various evidence that the jury can consider in determining the reasonable past and future medical expenses that should be awarded. Note that this new evidence standard should not apply to cases that were filed prior to March 24, 2023, but there are several courts that are currently reviewing this issue particularly.
Fault in Premises Liability
In premises liability cases, juries are allowed to acknowledge the fault of all contributing people, which may include a non-party who contributed to the plaintiff’s injury by committing a crime on the premises. Notably, these provisions will likely apply for claims that accrued (incident typically occurred) after March 24, 2023.
HB 837 made multiple changes to bad faith claims in Florida, including:
- For all bad faith actions in Florida, the claimant must act in good faith in making demands, determining deadlines, providing information, and trying to settle the claim.
- If the insurer tenders the lesser of the policy limits or the amount requested by the plaintiff within 90 days of receiving a notice of the claim and adequate evidence, the plaintiff can’t take bad faith action against them. If the insurer doesn’t tender, the statute of limitations is lengthened by an additional 90 days.
- The insurer is not liable for amounts exceeding the policy limits for multiple claims emerging from a single event (as long as the insurer files an interpleader or makes full policy limits accessible at binding arbitration.
As with all new legislation, there are and will continue to be legal challenges and judicial interpretations of the new law. These ongoing judicial opinions can have meaningful effects on the law and the impact on an individual’s legal rights.
Contact the experienced attorneys at Weldon & Rothman, PL to learn how HB 837 may impact your negligence case.