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Workers' Compensation


   

PROBLEM: Recent Florida Supreme Court rulings declaring parts of Florida’s model Workers’ Compensation law unconstitutional have led to the filing of a 14.5-percent increase in workers’ compensation rates for 2017, the first of what likely will be many such requests. Unless a legislative remedy is found, Florida’s workers’ compensation rates could return to pre-2003 record highs.

BACKGROUND: In Castellanos v. Next Door Company, the court found the workers’ compensation attorney’s fee schedule unconstitutional, effectively removing statutory caps on fees. In Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg, the court declared the law’s 104-week limitation on temporary total disability unconstitutional on the grounds that it creates a gap in benefits. The decision effectively more than doubles the period of time (260 weeks) an injured worker can collect temporary total benefits.

The court’s rulings undo key parts of the last major reform in 2003. At that time, Florida ranked among the states with the highest workers’ compensation rates in the country. After the reform, rates decreased steadily for 13 years. 

SOLUTION: Legislation is needed to, among other things:

  • Address attorney involvement by either reinstating the fee schedule with some modification for extraordinary cases, or doing away with insurer/employer paid fees entirely,
  • Codify that 260 weeks applies to both temporary total benefits and temporary partial impairment benefits (not 260 weeks for each), and
  • Ensure adequacy of benefit levels, which could include increasing death benefits and funeral benefits; or eliminating or reducing the co-pay that some workers pay for certain medical expenses.

CALL TO ACTION:  Support legislation that provides fair, no-fault benefits to injured workers while also keeping workers’ compensation insurance rates affordable for Florida employers.

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