The landscape has shifted for workers’ compensation in Florida. According to Insurance Journal, after a Florida Supreme Court ruling, “the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) filed a 17.1 percent rate increase with the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) for all new, renewal and additional policies in effect on a “pro-rata” basis.”
A limit on attorney fees in relation to workers’ compensation cases has been lifted following a recent ruling involving an injured employee. On April 28, 2016, the Florida Supreme Court ruled, “that the attorney fee schedule passed in 2009 is unconstitutional under both Florida’s and the U.S. Constitution as a violation of due process.” The ruling was made in a workers’ compensation case between injured employee Marvin Castellanos and employer Next Door C (insured by Amerisure).
Castellanos’ complaint was that the current schedule takes away the right of the claimant to collect reasonable attorney’s fees when exercising a right to workers’ compensation under the current law. After review, the court found that the current limit on attorneys’ fees installs an “irrebuttable presumption”, meaning that the fee is presumed to be “reasonable” at the current fixed rate (manditory sliding scale), no matter what the effective date rate turns out to be.
For example, according to the Tampa Bay Times, Castellanos’ particular case would have, “awarded the equivalent of $1.53 an hour in successfully pursuing a claim for benefits for a worker injured in Miami.” This presents many challenges for any injured Florida worker who must hire an attorney to collect workers’ compensation. For this reason, the main issue that backed the change in attorney’s fees was the “reasonableness” of attorney’s fees awarded in workers’ compensation cases. Following the ruling, claimants (and their counsel) may seek a reasonable attorney’s fee and thus secure the needed assistance of competent counsel “to navigate the thicket” of a workers’ compensation claim.
In response to the 5-2 ruling that found the 2009 law limiting attorney’s fees in violation of due-process rights, the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) submitted a proposed rate of increase for Florida workers’ compensation at 17.1 percent on May 27, 2016. The proposed amount equals $623 million and raises the statewide average by about 15 percent to cover employees the first year. The proposed effective date for new and renewal workers’ compensation policies and the 17.1 percent increase rate is August 1, 2016.
Following these recent changes in workers’ compensation in Florida, many state insurance experts are expecting more than just rates to be affected by the ruling. A new wave of litigation challenging old claims with the former (now unconstitutional) fee is anticipated for attorneys who specialize in workers’ compensation.
Lawmakers are concerned how this ruling and proposed increase in workers’ compensation insurance will affect the burden on Florida businesses and job creation.
“The Florida chamber will lead the charge to ensure small businesses aren’t crushed under the weight of increased workers’ comp rates, and that workers have access to quality health care so they can return quickly back to work,” Mark Wilson (Florida chamber president and CEO) said in a prepared statement reported by Tampa Bay Times.
Have you been injured on the job and suffered retaliation for attempting to or actually filing a workers’ compensation claim? Are you able to perform the job (perhaps with an accommodation) after your injury but were still terminated because of this injury?
The best thing you can do when you’re battling workers’ compensation retaliation is seek the advice of an experienced employment law attorney. Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., are employee rights attorneys who can advocate on your behalf. Give us a call to set up a consultation today.