Florida Legislature Advances Insurance Industry-Supported Attempts to Cap Personal Injury Lawsuit Awards

In an attempt to reverse the hard-fought gains that have been won by ordinary Floridians through prior Florida Supreme Court rulings over the past thirty years, the 2019 Florida Legislature is attempting to impose hurdles in the way Floridians can be fully compensated for injuries they suffered through no fault of their own in the Florida court system. Hard work on behalf of Florida injury victims is threatened to be undone by insurance industry lobbyists who have convinced Florida lawmakers to attempt to cap the amount of pain and suffering that can be recovered in personal injury cases in Florida.  A series of legislative reforms would limit the amount of non-economic damages, or pain and suffering awards, that a personal injury claimant is permitted to receive to $1,000,000 in a move that is being pushed by the insurance industry and would only benefit that industry, but would leave victims of someone else’s negligence in Florida without the ability to recover the resulting pain and suffering. Thankfully, however, as of now the legislation looks like it will not end up passing the full Legislature and become law.

The 2019 Legislative Measures

According to a report from the Orlando Sentinel, the proposed legislation would cap the non-economic damages available to all personal injury claimants in Florida to $1,000,000.  The bill’s sponsor in the House is a state representative who works as the chief legal counsel for an insurance brokerage firm in Daytona Beach.  He claims the bill is intended to ensure stability in Florida for both insurers and businesses that claim to be facing high litigation costs as a result of the current litigation landscape in Florida.  He further claimed his bill would result in lower premiums for customers but, as the Sentinel points out, there is nothing in the proposed legislation that would require the insurance industry to pass on any savings to consumers or customers in the form of decreased premiums.  While the bill passed its first committee stop, it is unlikely to win approval in the full House according to observers.  In addition, the Florida Senate also is considering similar but less drastic measures that would limit how medical costs that are recoverable in personal injury lawsuits are calculated.

Previous Florida Supreme Court Rulings Struck Down Cap Attempts

 Florida’s Supreme Court previously has ruled in several decisions over the past thirty years that prior laws capping the amount of damages available to a personal injury claimant violated the equal protection clause in Florida’s state constitution because the caps did not allow everyone to be treated the same, no matter what the person’s injuries were, by artificially limiting the amount the most catastrophically injured could recover for their pain and suffering as a result of injuries caused by someone else.  In 1986, the court struck down caps that applied across the board in all personal injury actions, while in recent years it declared unconstitutional new caps that were imposed in 2003 that only related to medical malpractice cases.

These proposed legislative changes are unfair to personal injury victims for the same reason they were deemed unconstitutional in the first place by the Florida Supreme Court: they do not treat everyone equally because they deny the truly catastrophically injured the ability to recover full damages for their immense pain and suffering as a result of someone else’s negligence.  The beauty of our state and country’s civil justice system is that a jury made up of ordinary people is free to award whatever they consider sufficient compensation for that person’s pain and suffering resulting from someone else’s negligence.  Currently, a jury is free to award ai person who was injured as a result of someone else’s negligence whatever the jury considers commensurate with the injuries that person has suffered.  Placing an arbitrary cap on a jury’s ability to award damages it finds consistent with the person’s pain and suffering would only hurt those who were injured through no fault of their own and force them to pay a price in order to help insurers, and not the injured Floridians who need recourse through the court system most of all. 

Contact Schwed Adams & McGinley if You Have Been Injured in Florida

At Schwed Adams & McGinley, our experienced personal injury attorneys have decades of legal experience representing those injured in a wide variety of scenarios.  We understand that not every client may have suffered $1,000,000 in pain and suffering as a result of  his or her injuries caused by someone else’s negligence, but artificially limiting the ability of a victim of someone else’s negligence to recover the full measure of his or her damages is not the way to ensure that the law is fair to everyone.  If you have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence in Florida, contact our experienced personal injury attorneys today at contact@schwedlaw.com or or (877) 694-6079 today.