Transparency In Damages: A Legal Necessity that Would Help All Floridians

In a world where transparency is becoming increasingly important, it is alarming to see how trial lawyers across Florida have spent years taking advantage of our legal system to line their own pockets.

Florida’s legal system—specifically in personal injury lawsuits—incentivizes some trial lawyers, medical financing companies, and medical providers to become bad actors and conceal the true costs of treatment for their clients in order to score huge paydays. This lawsuit abuse hurts hardworking Floridians and small businesses, who are ultimately the ones stuck with increased insurance premiums and higher legal costs. Those costs get passed down to consumers, like you and me, who are already struggling with record-high levels of inflation.

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The gap between the dollar amounts billed to patients and the actual amounts paid for medical treatment can be significant, leaving room for abuse. Many trial lawyers work with medical providers to persuade clients to forgo using their health insurance and instead sign a “letter of protection,” in which the healthcare provider agrees not to charge the patient for medical services, but instead wait to collect their fee from a potential settlement or court judgment.

This deceptive tactic prevents judges and juries in personal injury lawsuits from knowing the true cost of medical damages that a plaintiff would have paid had they not waived use of their health insurance. As a result, the defendants are left on the hook for the inflated costs, while the trial lawyers and medical providers walk away with a windfall in additional fees.

It is clear that the current system needs to change to ensure fairness in Florida’s courtrooms. Judges and juries should be allowed to receive accurate information on the actual value of medical expenses and prohibit the abuse of letters of protection. Jurors should also be made aware of what medical services have been paid for, what those costs were, and who paid for them.

These changes would be a significant step forward for our state and would help to eliminate the exploitation of the civil justice system for financial gain. According to a recent study from the Perryman Group, lawsuit abuse in Florida costs every resident $1,543 a year and more than 180,000 jobs. In a time when Florida is already facing a number of economic challenges and rising costs, we cannot afford to have the additional and unnecessary economic strain caused by lawsuit abuse.

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The fight to bring transparency to this area of our legal system is not a new concept — it’s just that Florida has been slow to address it. Several states have implemented legislation to ensure transparency in damages, and it’s time for Florida to follow suit. Florida voters must let our lawmakers know that transparency in damages reform is a top priority. It is time to put an end to the crony system that is bankrolling a select few at the expense of everyday Floridians and small businesses.

I am pleased to see Governor DeSantis and the Florida legislature push to address serious tort reform this legislative session. Ensuring transparency in damages for juries should be considered a critical lynchpin for the initiative’s success. The time is now in Tallahassee to fix this problem, for the sake of all Floridians and for the sake of fairness.

MaryLynn Magar
Former Speaker pro-tempore of the Florida House of Representatives

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