Our governor said he wants to make job creation a priority in Florida this year. Governor Scott has scheduled trips to New York, Illinois and even California to persuade companies to bring their business to the Sunshine State. But his plan is missing one key piece – legal reforms to stop lawsuit abuse.
Florida’s legislature is in session now, and legal reform must be a priority.
This is our only shot for the rest of the year to fix a broken legal system and create an environment that encourages business and jobs, not lawsuits.
This year there are two major legal reform bills being considered by the legislature:
Truth in Damages (HB 1199 / SB 1240)
It’s commonsense. You shouldn’t be able to recover damages for medical expenses you never incurred. Under current Florida law, that’s not the way things work. Instead, plaintiffs and their personal injury lawyers can sue to recover more in medical expenses than the plaintiff ever paid. That’s right: they can get money for nothing.
They do it by suing for recovery of the full cost of the medical expense even though they actually paid a much lower amount. What’s even worse is that some personal injury lawyers have enlisted a few unscrupulous healthcare providers in this lawsuit racket to inflate medical expenses so they can both cash in on higher lawsuit damages. Read more on the blog about how personal injury lawyers are using this broken law to fill their pockets.
How can we fix it?
SB 1240 would help stop “money for nothing” lawsuit abuse by requiring that the jury hear the actual amount of expenses the plaintiff paid and that damages be based on the actual expenses, not on some higher amount that was never paid. It would also help rein in running up the bill with unnecessary treatment by allowing the jury to hear evidence as to whether or not treatment was required.
It is commonsense that damages for medical expenses should bear some relation to the expenses actually paid by the plaintiff and that the treatment be medically necessary. This is totally fair. It ensures that expenses actually paid for necessary medical care can be recovered, while preventing the game of using falsely high costs to jack up lawsuit awards.
Fair Settlement (HB 1197 / SB 1088)
Personal injury lawyers are hijacking accident settlements so they can run up more and bigger lawsuits. Instead of allowing a fair settlement for the amount of damages covered by a customer’s insurance policy, personal injury lawyers are escalating routine settlements into so-called bad faith lawsuits.
Because Florida law doesn’t set clear rules for settling with a third party – not the policy holder, but the other person in the accident — personal injury lawyers get to the dictate the terms. They make settlement demands that are intentionally impossible to meet, and when their terms aren’t met, they threaten a “bad faith” lawsuit. This allows them to sue, not for the amount of damages that would have been covered under the policy, but for so-called bad faith which allows them to go after a whole new level of damages. You can read more about the threat of “bad faith” lawsuits and the price Floridians pay because of them on the Sick of Lawsuits blog.
How can we fix it?
Reform would ensure that rules for demanding and offering a settlement are clearly defined by the law instead of allowing personal injury lawyers to make up the rules of the game and call the shots. SB 1088 would ensure that there is a chance for a fair settlement while also drawing a bright line as to what really is bad faith so companies that act in bad faith are held responsible.
Clearer guidelines will help everyone. Companies will know exactly what they must comply with in offering a settlement – helping avoid entrapment in gotcha lawsuits; injured parties will get any settlement in a timely manner while avoiding drawn out, litigation; and strong consumer protections will remain in place if a company truly does act in bad faith.