Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed sweeping tort reforms into law on March 24, 2023, making significant changes to the state’s litigation system. The reforms took effect immediately and are seen as a win for the trucking industry.
Florida has been among the worst states in the nation for nuclear verdicts, where damage awards exceed $10 million. Trucking verdicts have increased by 335% in the last 10 years, with the average verdict going from $2.31 million to $22.3 million. Minor incidents (fender benders) result in settlements that are five times the true medical costs, regardless of fault.
“It is a historic day in Florida,” said Alix Miller, CEO of the Florida Trucking Association. “Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislative leaders House Speaker Paul Renner and Senate President Kathleen Passidomo came together in an unprecedented manner to stop lawsuit abuse.”
The tort reforms include several major changes to the state’s civil litigation system:
- Medical damages: Damages are limited to the amount actually paid by or on behalf of the plaintiff to the healthcare provider as evidenced by actual medical bills, along with the amount of charges for medical services that are owed at the time of trial.
- Modified comparative negligence: A plaintiff can recover in proportion to the defendants’ percentage of responsibility only if the plaintiff’s own share of responsibility is 50% or less. If a plaintiff bears more than 50% liability, the plaintiff cannot recover from the defendant.
- Modified bad claims provisions: An insured, claimant, or representative of the insured or claimant must act in good faith regarding furnishing information, making demands, setting deadlines, and attempting to settle the claim.
- Statute of limitations: The time period in which an individual can file a lawsuit has been reduced from four to two years.
Florida’s tort reform law will impact trucking companies regardless of whether they’re headquartered in the state or simply operating there. Florida is the latest among a growing number of states — including Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Texas, and West Virginia — that have enacted other and similar lawsuit abuse reforms.
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