This year, Florida has a chance to pass meaningful legal reform that would go a long way in stopping lawsuit abuse.
This legislative session, the Florida Legislature will consider two bills that could help prevent personal injury lawyers from exploiting gaps in our laws to fuel more and bigger lawsuits.
SB 1088, known as The Fair Settlement Act, seeks to clamp down on so-called “bad faith” lawsuits, which personal injury lawyers are currently using as a weapon to derail fair accident settlements and line their own pockets.
The problem is that Florida law does not set clear rules for settling with third parties in accident lawsuits, which lets personal injury lawyers dictate the terms. That’s a recipe for abuse, and trial lawyers take advantage of this loophole to intentionally make settlement demands that are impossible to meet. When the demands are not met, they threaten a “bad faith” lawsuit, triggering new damages beyond what would have been awarded for the actual accident. This means bigger fees for personal injury lawyers and higher costs that are passed on to consumers – a lawsuit premium.
Similarly, SB 1240, Truth in Damages, would address Florida’s “phantom damages” problem, in which personal injury lawyers sue to recover for more medical expenses than were ever really paid. Current law doesn’t require the court to hear how much a plaintiff actually paid, or if the medical services were even necessary. This creates a loop hole big enough for Mack truck and trial lawyers take advantage of it to demand payment for medical costs far greater than what were actually paid or needed.
Suing for damages for more medical costs than were actually paid is just another way for personal injury lawyers to drive up lawsuit amounts and increase their own fees. In this case, it’s like purchasing an item on sale and then trying to return it for the full price. And again, while personal injury lawyers pad the bill, and their pockets, we pay the price.
These are logical reforms that would stop these abuses. SB 1088 and SB 1240 would bring a basic, straightforward approach to justice. Damages should only be based on real costs and there should be clear and transparent rules in place that actually allow for a chance at a fair settlement.
This is the way that our civil justice system should work.
Every day that these issues go unaddressed is another gift to the trial bar. This year, legislators have a real opportunity to create clear, fair rules that crack down on trial lawyer abuse of the system. It’s an opportunity that lawmakers should not let go to waste.