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Nearly a year ago, on March 24, 2023, with a flick of his pen, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a tort reform bill, House Bill 837, into law. Since that day, the reverberations have had an altering effect on Florida’s negligent security laws and the way plaintiffs’ cases are litigated.  Under the new law, there is now a presumption that those who own certain housing complexes where multiple families reside are not liable for injuries resulting from negligent security as long as the owners have proactively met specific safety and security conditions. A Florida accident attorney can guide you around the new legislation.

What Are the Most Vital Changes?

Perhaps the most limiting is the lowering of the statute of limitations to two years from four for filing general negligence litigation. There is an exception for active duty service members who cannot appear in court to litigate their claims because they are off serving their country.

Otherwise, failing to file a lawsuit within the two years following the alleged negligent injury causes the case to be prescribed. Then, no further legal action can be taken by the plaintiff against the defendant.

Loss of Medical Privacy, Attorney-Client Privilege

Before DeSantis signed the bill into law, here in Florida, attorney-client privilege protected information about the medical providers from whom injured plaintiffs sought treatment. That, too, has changed substantially, as plaintiffs are now required to disclose if they are being treated under a letter of protection issued by their attorneys to the treatment providers,

These letters are commonly used in the personal injury world. They guarantee payment of medical treatment rendered to injured plaintiffs either by the plaintiffs themselves or their attorneys. These agreements, amounts paid, and even CPT codes now must be revealed to the attorneys, the court, and even juries.

Every Florida accident attorney and their firms develop a network of neurologists, pain management physicians, chiropractors, and physical therapists whom they know will treat their clients well. But if they refer clients to a medical provider, the new law mandates that the attorney-doctor relationship be available for scrutiny, including seeking discovery related to how many cases the doctors were paid for seeing plaintiffs and how much they earned from those cases.

From Pure Comparative to Modified Comparative Negligence Standard

In the past, if a plaintiff’s actions led in part to their injuries due to negligent security, their damage settlement or court award was reduced by a percent of their liability. For instance, if someone was considered 60% responsible for a fall down a flight of stairs due to intoxication, and the company was found to be 40% liable due to a faulty handrail, an award of $100,000 would immediately be reduced to $40,000. That legal doctrine has substantially been altered by the new tort reform law.

Now, plaintiffs whom the courts find to be 51% liable (or greater) cannot recover any damage amount whatsoever under the new law, which is known as the modified comparative negligence standard.

It should be noted that these are not the only changes under the new law. A Florida accident attorney may be less likely to take on clients with injuries from accidents involving negligent security. Injured parties may also decline or wait too long to seek compensation from property owners because they believe doing so will be fruitless.

To Whom Does the Law Apply?

Those who operate and own residential properties designed for occupancy by multiple families in five or more housing units are given a presumption of innocence regarding claims of negligent security only if they have the below security features implemented on their properties:

  • Lighting for common areas, laundry rooms, parking lots, porches, and walkways.
  • Security cameras that can retrieve footage of entries and exits.
  • For outer doors without windows on or adjacent to the doors, there must be an inside peephole or other way to see who is outside.
  • An installed device that locks each sliding door, window, and other doors that do not lead into communal spaces.
  • In each unit’s doors, an installed inch-long deadbolt.
  • Locked gates that bar access to pools without fobs or keys for entry.

The law is supposed to make such complexes safer, more secure, and less desirable for the criminal element to commit violent or property crimes.

By New Year’s Day of 2025, complex owners and operators also must complete an assessment evaluating the system for crime prevention via environmental design that’s in place (and less than three years old). These assessments can only be completed by law enforcement officers or a designated Florida Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design practitioner trained by the Department of Legal Affairs at the Florida Crime Prevention Training Institute. Housing complex operators and owners are required to substantially comply with their assessment.

What Negligent Security Claims Are Winnable?

With the new law’s restrictions on claims, it can be challenging to pursue compensation due to injuries suffered as a result of negligent security. But very serious claims that produce life-altering injuries or cause fatalities might qualify.

Examples include incidents at hotel and resort spas and swimming pools that result in catastrophic accidents. Two potential examples are suction entrapment or drowning due to an inattentive lifeguard who was on their phone rather than supervising drowning non-swimmers.

The law does not give a pass to every Florida property owner who gives a cursory nod to the new law’s requirements. Proving that the property operator or manager was out of “substantial compliance” with the law could be enough to turn the tide in your direction.

But to know the viability and true value of your claim requires an assessment by an experienced Florida accident attorney.

Get Advice from a Florida Accident Attorney

Even with all these new restrictions and rules in place regarding the litigation of negligent security claims, Florida residents who suffer injuries or the loss of loved ones due to negligent or nonexistent security may still have a path toward civil justice.

What types of security breaches could necessitate retaining a personal injury lawyer here in Florida? At The Morgan Law Group, a Florida accident attorney will meet with you and review the circumstances of your security negligence claim. If you would like to learn more about your options going forward, reach out to The Morgan Law Group at (305) 384-1928. We have six Florida locations to serve you.