With Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week now underway, it’s important to focus on how these issues are currently at play in Florida. Florida’s deteriorating legal reputation is already well documented, but why exactly is this happening and what can we do to put a stop to it?
A big part of the problem is bad laws. Lawsuit abuse begins with bad laws at both the state and federal level. Bad laws fuel the cycle of lawsuit abuse by incentivizing lawsuits, weakening standards for bringing lawsuits, bringing lawsuits into law as the enforcement mechanism (often allowing for private lawyers to act as law enforcement), and creating new types of lawsuits altogether.
In Florida, we’ve seen first-hand how trial lawyers are taking advantage of bad laws to encourage lawsuit abuse. As an example, ADA lawsuits have become a booming industry for Florida personal injury lawyers who use the law to go after small businesses for the most minor non-compliance, such as having a towel bar being hung a few inches too high. In these lawsuits, personal injury lawyers use the law to shake down small businesses for settlements to make the lawsuit go away. Fixing the violation and improving access is only secondary.
Another example of this is the problem of “phantom damages,” where trial lawyers have taken advantage of loopholes in Florida law to sue and recover for medical expenses that were never really incurred. Because the current law doesn’t require disclosure of the actual amount of expenses that were paid, it puts out a welcome mat for abuse.
Outdated laws and regulations like this just further encourage Florida’s lawsuit abuse problem. Not only do bad laws encourage lawsuit abuse, too often our legislators pass up opportunities to make things better. Lawmakers drafted two important legal reforms that would have taken significant steps in cleaning up the state’s litigation climate during this year’s legislative session, but they never even made it out of committee.
In Florida, laws that reward questionable lawsuits are currently playing a significant role in the ongoing cycle of lawsuit abuse. And what do we have to thank for these lawsuit-encouraging laws? Trial lawyer influence over our state legislature.
Find out tomorrow how personal injury lawyers are taking advantage of these laws to line their own pockets.