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Monday, February 17, 2020

State Chamber to renew push for 'Truth in Damages' legislation next session


By John Breslin | Sep 2, 2019

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TALLAHASSEE -- Legal reform advocates, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, will be pushing strongly to limit the amount of damages a personal injury victim can receive, the so-called "Truth in Damages," where a plaintiff can have their medical expenses calculated on billed prices.

Advocates argue that the billed price often bears little relationship with the actual medical costs, given there are often negotiated rates between plans and provides, and schedules under Medicare and Medicaid.

“It’s commonly known as Truth in Damages and it has been a Florida Chamber of Commerce priority for many years. We’ll keep working on it until it gets done," said Edie Ousley, the chamber's vice president of public affairs.

A bill introduced last session, HB 17, would have required "medical damages in certain tort actions to be accurately calculated, based on actual amounts."

Proponents of the bill argued it was important because Florida has the highest tort system costs among U.S. states as a percentage of state gross domestic product, at 3.6 percent. The bill's authors calculated the costs average $4,442 for each Florida household.

However,  a blog post from the Schulman Law Group site - a personal injury firm that could be negatively impacted by such legislation - a writer argued, "One of the faults of attacking the victim rather than the health care provider is that if a jury is not permitted to compensate a personal injury victim with the full amount they are charged, the victim/patients are still obligated to pay their doctor the amount they are charged."

Although tort system reformers have celebrated a number of successes in recent years in the continuing battle to reduce judicial costs, they will also be seeking a cap on noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, that are reinstated in medical malpractice cases.

Most recently, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new assignment of benefits (AOB) reform bill, a consistent target of legal reformers

Previously, attorneys for those winning a case would be awarded all fees. Those arguing for reform stated that homeowners who assigned the work of pursuing a case with contractors, particularly regarding flood damages, encouraged them to go to the court over minor disputes.

Under the new statute, attorney fees will be limited if the difference between the judgment and any pre-suit settlement is at least 50 percent. Further, if it is less than 25 percent of that disputed amount, the insurer could be entitled to attorney fees.

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