Proposed Changes by the Florida Legislation Will Mean Big Changes in the Way that Prejudgement Interest in Determined in Personal Injury Cases
Tampa, FL -- (ReleaseWire) -- 04/25/2017 --The Florida legislature is currently considering a bill which would enable plaintiffs who are successful in negligence actions to recoup prejudgment interest on economic and non-economic damages. Under the current law, interest is only charged on damages following the date that a legal decision is entered; the proposed legislation would allow interest to accrue from the date that the tort or injury occurred. If enacted into law, this legislation could significantly increase judgment amounts against defendants in personal injury lawsuits across the state.
As introduced by State Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota), Senate Bill 334 would require Florida courts to add prejudgment interest to any monetary award granted to a plaintiff who is recovering both non-economic and economic damages. Both court costs and attorney fees would be included in the amount on which interest is calculated. For economic damages, interest would begin as of the date when the plaintiff lost the economic benefit; interest on non-economic damages would start to accrue from the date when the defendant was provided with notification of the plaintiff's claim. For court costs, prejudgment interest would begin accruing at the beginning of the next month after the court costs were paid.
If passed into law by both the Florida Senate and House, the new legislation would only affect cases after July 1, 2017.
State. Sen. Steube's proposed bill is proving somewhat controversial across the state and has received strong opposition from the Florida business community as well as groups such as the Florida Justice Reform Institute (FJRI), the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), Florida Retail Federation (FRF), American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) and the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. According to the bill's opponents, the proposed legislation could carry high costs for Florida employers. On the other hand, the plaintiffs' bar is strongly in support of the proposed legislation.
According to prominent Florida personal injury attorney Armando Edimston, "If this bill passes and becomes a law, it will be revolutionary for Plaintiffs. The bill will help even the playing field between ordinary people, who are injured in a car accident, and the powerful insurance companies. The average car accident case takes between 6 months and 1 year in pre-suit and then another 12–18 months once suit has been filed. This bill acts as a sword to allow Plaintiff's attorneys one more arrow to use against the dominant insurance companies. I am not surprised that all of the business associations are against it. Unfortunately, I believe it is because they feel the insurance companies will just increase premiums to help offset the added expense. However, what is often overlooked by these associations when trying to change the status quo, is the opportunity of insurance companies to simply take responsibility when their client is at fault, and not contribute to needless litigation."
Mr. Edmiston goes on to say, "This bill is only powerful when the insurance company does not want to take responsibility and makes the plaintiff prove the case through trial. Anything short of trial this bill would not affect the practice of law as it is today. Post-trial the recovery would increase at the statutory rate allowed per year, which as of July 2016 was 4.84 per annum. I believe this bill will make insurance companies do the right thing more often and help reduce unnecessary litigation an expense."
After being approved by the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee with a vote of 6 to 2 at the end of February, the bill cleared the Senate Rules Committee and is now poised for a floor vote by the entire Senate. The parallel bill in Florida's House of Representatives, HB 469 as sponsored by State Rep. Shawn Harrison (R-Tampa), is preparing for a vote by the Florida House Judiciary Committee after passing the House Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee by a vote of 11 to 4. Before the proposed legislation can become law, both chambers of the Florida legislature must come into agreement on the bill's final language.
About Armando Edimston of Ask2Amigo Law Firm
Founding attorney Armando Edmiston is a Tampa FL based lawyer specializing in personal injury law. The personal injury attorneys at Ask2Amigo Law Firm have over 25 years of experience handling immigration, criminal defense, family, and personal injury law. Call to schedule a complimentary consultation.