Florida’s Tort Reform Legislation: Changes to Past Medical Care and Expenses Recovery

Florida’s latest attempt at tort reform, House Bill 837, was signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on March 24, 2023. This tort reform legislation changes the ability of an injured party to recover his or her past medical expenses associated with the treatment they received for injuries from an incident. The changes potentially reduce how much a personal injury claimant can recover for past medical treatment, particularly in cases where the person lacks health insurance and receives treatment under a letter of protection from a healthcare provider, or in which those medical expenses were paid for by private insurance.

Florida’s New Tort Reform: What Changed?

Under the new law, a personal injury claimant can only recover amounts for past medical expenses that are directly tied to how much Medicare or private health insurance would pay, or did pay, for treatment the individual received for his or her injuries from a motor vehicle accident or other incident in which the individual was injured. This is true regardless of whether the treatment was paid for by health insurance, or whether it was paid for under a letter of protection, a promise pursuant to which you agree to pay the healthcare provider once your lawsuit resolves. If you have private health insurance and it pays for your treatment, then you can only recover for the amount that was paid, period.

Healthcare providers who treat patients under a letter of protection are taking a risk of non-payment given that the provider only is paid if the plaintiff’s suit is successful. This is why they often charge more than insurance providers would pay for the same procedure or treatment. These recent changes to Florida law may put the plaintiff in the difficult position of owing a certain amount to a healthcare provider under a letter of protection. A jury, relying on testimony from a defense expert stating Medicare will only pay a small amount for a course of treatment or a procedure, may award the person less than they ultimately have to pay the medical provider under that letter of protection. These changes are not very plaintiff-friendly, as while a provider would likely agree to accept the lesser amount, given that is all the jury awarded, there is nothing compelling that healthcare provider to do so.

Which Version of the Law Applies to My Lawsuit?

These changes to a personal injury claimant’s ability to recover past medical expenses only apply to injuries that occurred after March 24, 2023, the date that Governor DeSantis signed HB 837 into law. Some insurers and defense attorneys are trying to take advantage of them early however, and are arguing that the changes should be applied to lawsuits that were already filed or situations that had occurred prior to the bill officially becoming law. As such, there will be fights in many cases going forward as to whether a plaintiff’s ability to recover his or her past medical expenses is governed by the old rules or the new rules.

Contact Schwed, Adams & McGinley

At Schwed, Adams & McGinley, our experienced personal injury attorneys have more than 200 years of combined legal experience. The Florida Legislature made changes to the state’s civil justice system that few people (other than insurance companies) felt were necessary. Our experienced attorneys, having handled over 15,000 cases successfully, know how to obtain maximum damages for our clients who have been the victim of someone else’s negligence. This is true regardless of what hurdles the Legislature may choose to impose on our clients’ ability to do so. Thus, if you were the victim of someone else’s negligence in the Sunshine State, contact our experienced personal injury attorneys today at contact@schwedlaw.com or (877) 694-6079 today.