Worker's Comp. Rates are Projected to Jump 17% After Florida Court Strikes Attorney Fee Limit

Last month, a Florida Supreme Court struck a proposed limit on attorney fees, the result of which could mean a 17.1% spike in workers' compensation insurance rates.

This is surprising news, considering how rates have been steadily declining for the past 13 years, when lawmakers approved a system overhaul back in 2003. The decision for this potential rate change now lies in the hands of the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, though it is unclear by when this decision must be made.

This may be of some considerable benefit to Florida's worker's compensation attorneys, however, considering the fact that Florida's labor law currently awards attorneys a percentage of the total fee that is ultimately won. So, as Gary Pinnell pointed out in his article for Highlands Today, an attorney who puts in over 100 hours of work can have his or her award determined to be a paltry $1.50 per hour. (To do the math, that is a stomach-turning $150 payout.)

Though, not everyone is on the attorneys' side in this case, as attorney fees are often seen as controversial in workers' compensation cases. While some groups argue that attorney fees cause insurance costs to skyrocket, attorneys argue back that the fees are necessary in order to secure the best possible representation for their clients. And, in all fairness, attorneys should be paid for the work they do (unless, of course, they're working pro bono) - everyone has to put food on the table.

Business groups are still fighting an increase in rates and, as State Representative Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park puts it, "a balance [must] be struck [to determine] what is best for the injured worker [without creating] an unsustainable burden for the employer."

The National Council on Compensation Insurance plans to conduct a public hearing in regard to the rate filing, but a date for said hearing has not yet been determined.

Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson issued a statement in which he noted that the Florida Chamber is doing its due diligence to ensure that businesses aren't "crushed" by an increase in worker's compensation rates while, simultaneously, injured workers can have access to the quality of health care necessary to help them get back on their feet and returning to the workplace.

Court of Appeals Overturns Decision on No-Fault "Facility Fee"

As per a recent article posted to Lexology.com, the New York Court of Appeals, the highest Court in the land, has recently decided that no-fault automobile insurers do not have to pay a facility fee for any procedures performed at a physician’s private practice.

For those not in-the-know, a physician operating out of a licensed hospital or ambulatory surgery center (ASC) who treats a patient that was injured in an automobile accident is permitted, by law, to bill a “professional” fee for that physician’s services. The same law also allows the facility to bill a “technical” or “facility” fee in exchange for their providing of the equipment, premises, and staff necessary in order to properly treat that patient.

However, private practices who are not licensed by the State Department of Health (DOH) have also been trying to collect these same fees from No-Fault carriers, arguing that they are just as entitled to receive these fees as a result of the demand that they be “accredited” by privately held, DOH-approved accreditation agencies. They also argue that charging just a “professional fee” alone does not adequately cover all of their practices’ expenses.

GEICO, however, believed this practice to be “double-dipping” and filed suit against Avanguard Medical Group LLC, one of these private practices, seeking a judgment that would free them from having to pay Avanguard their demanded facility fee. While GEICO’s motion for summary judgment was initially denied by the Supreme Court, the Appellate Division overturned the Supreme Court’s Decision on appeal and granted the motion, deciding instead that GEICO was not required to pay Avanguard’s facility fee.

As expected, Avanguard appealed, however the Court of Appeals affirmed the Appellate Division’s Decision, finding that New York State’s Department of Financial Services’ no-fault fee schedule permits the reimbursement of services performed at a private practice, but that limits facility fee payments to licensed hospitals and ASCs. The Court also firmly established the difference between private practices and licensed hospitals/ASCs and the rights that are - and that should be - afforded to both institutions.

Importantly, the Court also found that private practices are not licensed nor regulated by the DOH and, as a result, are prohibited from using such terms as “facility,” “center,” or “clinic” in their practices’ names.

 

Incidentally, the issue of the “facility fee” has actually been festering for quite some time, and some insurers will flat-out reject paying anyone’s “facility fee,” while others will pay all or a portion of it.

Close Call in Long Island Race for the Senate

According to an article posted by Charles Lane and JD Allen of WSHU, the special election that was held to find a replacement for disgraced former New York Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos was close – in fact, it was actually too close to call.

Skelos, along with his son, was convicted on federal corruption charges late last year, and the two candidates vying for his seat are personal injury attorney Chris McGrath of Hewlett Harbor for the Republican side and former federal prosecutor Todd Kaminsky of Long Beach for the Democrats. As of early this morning, Kaminsky was ahead of McGrath by approximately 800 votes.

Election workers will now be tasked with hand-counting about 2,500 paper ballots, according to McGrath.

While McGrath was backed by the Service Employees International Union, Kaminsky received support from the President himself. Though, according to WSHU’s article, Kaminsky was disappointed that he was simply too busy to put as much time into his campaign as he might have liked, saying that “[his] assembly district is a third of the area,” which meant that there were “a lot of people [and places that he didn’t get to meet],” especially when, as a current state assemblyman, he is “in session in Albany.”

The ultimate outcome of this race will be an important one as the final vote has the power to change who has the majority of seats in the Senate. A win for McGrath would mean a Republican majority while a win for Kaminsky would allow the Democrats to reclaim it.

Justice Scalia's Death is Affecting How Precedent Is - and Is Not - Being Set

In a fascinating article posted by CNN on April 4, 2016, Ariane de Vogue discusses the potentially troubling fact that since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on February 13, 2016, there have already been two 4-4 opinions issued in Supreme Court cases, one of which was handed down in a higher profile case that was initially predicted to overturn a 40 year-old precedent – a prediction that, in light of Scalia’s passing, did not ultimately come true.

The occurrence of such a split, and especially the fact that such a split has now happened twice, indicates that these splits may become more commonplace in the future and that the possibility for national precedent to be set may be less likely.

De Vogue also noted that other predictions made by court watchers insofar as the areas of same-sex marriage and healthcare may now affected by Scalia’s death as well, particularly because the remaining eight justices may continue to be only eight justices for the remainder of this term and into the next.

Still outstanding during the current term, however, are high-profile cases concerning issues like abortion and immigration, and when you have four liberal justices facing off against four conservative justices, it is easy to see how a 4-4 split could certainly become more of a regular occurrence.

In de Vogue’s article, she quoted White House Counsel Neil Eggleston as saying that the Supreme Court actually looks to see if the lower Courts are split on an issue before taking a case on. This is because a 4-4 split automatically affirms the lower Court and cannot possibly set a national precedent, so a group that is divided such as this one is may not be able to solve a circuit split.

Justice Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito have both stated that a 4-4 split isn’t as big of a concern as it may be made out to be, mainly because the Court has functioned with such vacancies and splits of justices in the past. However, de Vogue notes that CNN Legal Analyst Stephen I. Vladeck says that while that may be true, it has been rarer for a) the Court to be so evenly divided on such high-profile issues, and b) for a vacant seat to deprive either side of the majority vote.

And it’s not just the majority vote that has been affected by Scalia’s death; oral arguments have been feeling the sting of his loss as well, mainly because Scalia was known for throwing questions at attorneys that could alter the course of where the arguments were going on either side of the issue. In other words, you really had to be on top of your game as a litigator if you knew you were about to face off against Justice Scalia that day.

Though, it is also speculated that Scalia’s death may have been the inspiration for Justice Clarence Thomas’ recent asking of a question for the first time in a decade, as it is believed that Thomas may have felt that this was something Scalia would have done. So counselors going up against Justice Thomas may find it best to keep their A-game as sharp as if they were defending their case to Justice Scalia.

No matter how you may have felt about Justice Scalia, it is undeniable that his death has sent shockwaves through the legal community - potentially going so far as to effect whether or not national legal precedents will be set going forward. That is huge. To say that Scalia’s death had a significant impact on the practice of law is a severe understatement.

Long Island Electric Bikes Rebrands To Propel, Increasing Focus on Revolutionizing Transportation Industry

BROOKLYN, NY (PRWEB) March 25, 2015

Going forward, Long Island Electric Bikes will be known as Propel Electric Bikes. With sales tripling in volume each year since its inception, Propel’s founder, Chris Nolte, recognized that it was vital to communicate the company’s full range of capabilities to a wider audience in order to uniquely and credibly address the nation’s evolving needs.

The new Propel retail location is set to open its doors in Brooklyn, in Spring of 2015.

“Our goal is to decrease the operation of automobiles by increasing the use of electric bikes in the United States. Electric bike usage in Europe is at 37% and in the United States it is less than 1%,” Nolte said.

Although there are several bicycle stores throughout the United States specializing in electric-assisted bikes, Propel intends to offer more. Propel is focused on selling nothing but tried and true quality products with the guarantee that Propel stands behind products, 100%.

"Customer service is one area where Propel has always impressed me" said Court Rye ofElectricBikeReview.com. Rye continues, "I always recommend that consumers buy locally because shops can help with fitting, maintenance and warranty support but that's not always possible. I've seen Chris and his team fulfill orders all across America (I've even purchased from him myself) and the service is first rate. It's easy to see why Propel has been selected as a flagship outlet for premium European brands like Focus, Kalkhoff and Haibike; in 2014 Propel was formally recognized as a top dealer for Easy Motion and I'm sure this year will continue that trend."

The rebrand, including a new logo and website, establishes a concrete vision with a distinctive point of view that sets out to lessen the dependence upon foreign oil by adapting to the use of electric bikes as primary transportation. The logo captures Propel’s objective as it is clearly stated in the company’s tagline, “Changing The Way You Move”.

“Many people love cycling, but most US cyclists rely upon cars as their primary mode of transportation,“ said Propel Founder, Chris Nolte. As a service disabled Iraq war veteran who drove fuel trucks during active duty, Nolte explains, “We feel there is an ever-increasing demand to reduce our dependence on oil by utilizing viable transportation alternatives. It is our mission to provide and support this development.”

 

Source: http://www.prweb.com/releases/propel-bikes/announces-rebrand/prweb12600940.htm