On March 24, 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida enacted HB 837, a far-reaching tort reform bill that makes significant changes to civil litigation in the state. One of the most notable provisions of this legislation is the elimination of one-way attorney fees in certain circumstances. This change will significantly impact plaintiffs who previously relied on one-way attorney fees to offset their costs in legal disputes with insurers.
Under the newly enacted law, attorney fees will be two-way, which means that consumers must now bear the cost of their own attorney fees out of their settlement or pocket. This change will also apply to auto-glass and PIP cases, where consumers will be responsible for the cost of windshield repair or medical treatment that is covered by PIP but not paid for by their insurance company. It is worth noting that PIP is mandatory, and consumers will now have to pay a lawyer to force the insurer to pay for their medical bills, resulting in an additional financial burden for them.
Changes to Attorney Fees Under New Florida Statutes
The previous Florida Statutes allowed insureds to recover attorney fees in lawsuits against their insurer where any recovery was granted to the insured. However, repealing this provision in the new HB 837 means that plaintiffs can no longer rely on it in legal proceedings. The intention of the change is to reduce the burden of excessive and predatory litigation in Florida and disincentivize frivolous lawsuits, but it is possible that the elimination of one-way attorney fees could place an unfair burden on consumers.
Moreover, this change may deter some plaintiffs from pursuing legitimate claims, as the cost of hiring an attorney may be too high. Nonetheless, the bill does provide a provision that allows insureds to recover reasonable attorney fees incurred in litigating a declaratory judgment action following a total coverage denial by the insurer. It’s important to note that this provision only applies to coverage litigation against liability insurers under specific circumstances.
Changes to Attorney Fees in Auto-Glass and PIP Cases
In addition, HB 837 eliminates one-way attorney fees from auto-glass and personal injury protection (PIP) cases. This change is expected to significantly reduce the number of such cases in Florida. Moreover, the bill adds Florida Statute Section 57.104, which limits the awarding of attorneys’ fees multipliers to rare and unusual circumstances, bringing the Florida contingency fee multiplier statute in line with the federal standard. The new provisions of the bill are not retroactive, which means that they will not apply to cases filed before March 24. However, any cases filed after that date will be subject to the new provisions.
Contact Our Experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorneys
It is important to stay up-to-date on HB 837 and how it may impact your case. Our team of personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Leonard J. Valdes is well-versed in the sweeping changes introduced by this law and can provide valuable insight into its potential impact. Get in touch with us today to arrange a free consultation. We possess the expertise and resources to help clients navigate these changes successfully and ensure that you receive the compensation and justice you deserve.