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.