During the 2017 Florida Legislative session, more than 3,000 bills were filed with fewer than 250 passing both the House and the Senate. Among the key legislation relating to personal injury that were filed this session were bills to: increase the insurance liability coverage requirements for ride-sharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft (HB 221); an effort to require mandatory bodily injury requirements; worker’s compensation reform; and a bill sponsored by Senator Rouson, member of the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, to increase liability to persons who continue to serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person.
HB 221: Uber/Lyft Bill
HB 221, the bill relating to ridesharing, was successfully passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Rick Scott. This Bill enacts statewide, uniform regulations for ride-sharing companies, including requiring increased insurance coverage and requiring third parties to conduct background checks on drivers.
Previously, some aspects of ride-sharing were governed by a patchwork of local ordinances which created inconsistency for consumers and ride-sharing companies.
With the enactment of the new legislation, local ordinances are overturned and ride-sharing companies are now required to maintain $1 million in commercial auto liability insurance between the time a driver has accepted a rider and dropped off the rider. Additionally, companies must have liability insurance coverage of at least $50,000 for death and bodily injury per person, $100,000 for death and bodily injury per incident, and $25,000 for property damage while the driver has the ride-sharing app engaged, but has not yet picked up a customer.
The hope is that this legislation will allow ride-sharing companies to expand within the state. The law went into effect July 1, 2017.
HB 1063: Repealing PIP Proposal
Although the Florida House of Representatives provided strong support and passed legislation (HB1063) to repeal Florida’s No-Fault Law and to replace it with a requirement for Florida drivers to carry $25,000 per person/$50,000 per incident in bodily injury liability insurance, the legislation became stalled in the Senate. Under current legislation, Florida drivers are required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage of at least $10,000, which extends payment for any medical expenses and certain non-medical costs associated with a crash, such as lost wages or replacement benefits. Under the proposed law, PIP would be eliminated in favor of the higher limits.We are studying the effect of this on the injured person.
HB 7085 and SB 1582: Workers’ Comp Legislation
There were several attempts (HB 7085 & SB 1582) by insurance companies and lobbyists to limit injured workers’ access to courts. After the recent passage of Castellano v. Next Door Company*, wherein the Florida Supreme Court found that the attorney’s fee schedule passed in 2009 by the Florida Legislature was an unconstitutional limit of the right of a claimant to get reasonable attorney’s fees, as well as similar cases, there were efforts in this session to enact worker’s compensation reform that were defeated.
Additionally, efforts to increase benefits for injured workers, to provide injured workers with a choice in choosing physicians, and to reform the process of determining rates were similarly defeated. The National Council of Compensation Insurers (NCCI) recommended a 14.5 percent average rate increase to worker’s compensation policies in the state, which was approved by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation and became effective as of December 1, 2016. Even with the increase, Florida has gone from the most expensive state for worker’s compensation insurance to about the 23rd most expensive state in recent years.
SB 1254: Drugs and Alcohol
Currently, F.S. 768 provides that “a person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person, except that a person who willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age or who knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such minor or person”.
During the 2017 Legislative session, Dolman Attorney and Senator, Darryl Rouson, filed a senate bill to crack down on people who continue to serve alcohol to a person who is visibly drunk seeking to make them liable for injury or damage caused by intoxication. The proposed bill would have also prohibited a person from allowing a party to take place if a minor is in possession of or consuming alcohol or drugs and provide liability for damage or injury occurring as a result of allowing a minor to openly possess or consume alcohol or drugs at a party. Unfortunately, the bill died in committee.
Very few personal injury law firms can say that a member of their firm serves in the Florida Senate. At Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we are fighting for you in the community and in the legislature.
*Castellano v. Next Door Company: No. SC13-2082 (Fla. April 28, 2016)