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Two Rulings Lead To A Workers’ Comp Rate Hike

Workers’ compensation insurance has been a part of almost every employer’s budget for decades. It’s a simple, no-fault way of dealing with workplace injuries, which were handled with bitter court cases about liability and responsibility before that point. Workers’ comp doesn’t point fingers, it just provides a steady (if undersized) income and covers most medical bills related to the accident.

However, each state sets the rules on its own workers’ compensation insurance, which means that while some states are relatively generous and favor the employees, others prefer to limit benefits in order to keep rates low and favor the businesses instead. Florida is much more a part of this second category, in part thanks to a set of reforms passed in 2003. Thanks to the 2003 reforms, along with another set of reforms which passed ten years earlier, workers’ comp lawyers have had to work on scale, accepting fees based on the value of the claims instead of a standard minimum fee.

The Florida Supreme Court Weighs In

In 2016, the Florida Supreme Court saw two cases which dealt with two very important aspects of workers’ comp. One of them, Westphal v. City of St Petersbuerg, dealt with the lowered time limit on temporary total disability. Temporary total disability is the condition where you are completely unable to work but you still have some hope that you will eventually return to the workforce. Until recently, the longest you could go on temporary total disability payments was 104 weeks, but the Florida Supreme Court struck down that number and replaced it with the old one, 260 weeks.

The other big case was Castellanos v Next Door Company. This is the one that struck down the fee structure for workers’ comp lawyers, which means that the program can now pay higher fees to lawyers who represent workers looking to reach a good settlement.

A 10.1 Percent Value?

A study came out not long ago which noted that employees going through the workers’ comp process were still getting lawyers to represent them. The total number of lawyers had gone down by a few percentage points, but it wasn’t anything dramatic. However, the study made no note about the quality of legal advice the lawyers were providing to the employees, which means it’s hard to quantify exactly what the change in the law did for employees.

On the other hand, when the Supreme Court of Florida dropped these fee limits, there was supposedly a large increase in the number of workers’ comp cases with lawyers attached. As a result, the National Council on Compensation Insurance asked for a rate hike of 19.6 percent, a number they would negotiate down to 14.5 percent. Of that increase, 10.1 percent is supposedly to handle the additional legal fees that are cropping up and are expected to continue to increase into the future.

However, there is at least one other explanation for a sudden increase in workers’ comp lawyers and legal fees: backed-up demand. It is entirely possible that the strict fee caps were preventing many employees who needed a lawyer to represent them from getting one, or at least from getting enough time from one to be helpful. But now that the restrictions have lifted, these employees now have the ability to make the insurance companies provide them with the full benefits they deserve.

The 14.5 percent rate hike may be justified or it may be opportunistic, but either way it’s a small price to pay for better coverage of injured workers. If you’re an employee in southwest Florida and you’re running into problems regarding your workers’ compensation, you should contact the All Injuries Law Firm today for a free case review.