The Florida legislative session began on March 7 th and is currently scheduled to run until May 5, 2017. Workers’ Compensation insurance rates were recently increased so along with many other “hot button” topics, the future of the Workers’ Compensation system in Florida is being hotly debated. If fact, one proposal of changes to the law did not make out of the committee stage, just this week.
What is at stake? The answer is “a lot”. The workers’ compensation system is meant to protect both the employer and the injured worker. The simple math is that with a rate increase, employers may not be able to hire as many workers, give raises, etc… The question becomes, what is the best way to ensure that rates due to not “explode” but still keep a system in place that gets the injured worker quick and efficient medical care and missed wage benefits, so that their financial burden is mitigated as much as possible while recovering, and get them back to work.
How is this done? This question is really the impetus of the debate. On one end of the spectrum, you have those that argue that the rate increase is due to a series of recent Supreme Court cases that changed the law regarding fees, most notably Castellanos v. Next Door Company. This case essentially revived a portion of the law that allows Claimant’s attorneys to collect hourly fees in certain instances when the Employer/Carrier wrongfully denies a requested benefit by the Claimant. Some will kick and scream that this is outrageous and a money grab and that premiums will go through the roof due to this. What people do not realize, or choose not to focus on, is that hourly fees are never due and owing from the carrier unless THEY WRONGFULLY DENY A BENEFIT THAT IS DUE AND OWING TO THE INJURED WORKER.
The benefit that they wrongfully denied, is a benefit that the injured worker is entitled to. A benefit that will assist the injured worker in getting back to work as soon as possible. This is the purpose of all benefits under the law. Essentially, the powers at be are raising rates to cover costs for their own mistakes and wrongful actions. I’m sure we all wish we could just simply pass the costs of our own wrong doings onto others. Without this, there is really nothing in the worker’s arsenal to make sure the carrier is doing what they are supposed to do. What incentive is there for an insurance carrier to provide benefits timely? Sure, some will do it because it is the law and right and what they are supposed to do, but some will not. It is the ladder that the threat of hourly fees protects the injured worker from. This helps employers.
Employers should want to make sure that their employees get good, efficient treatment and are back to work as soon as possible. They should want those who wrongfully deny their employees much needed benefits which in turn delays their return to work, to be held accountable. Without the fee provision, there really is no way to accomplish that. No substantive way.
Alternatively, some will argue that it is defense fees and attorneys that keep cases ongoing, delaying treatment and the injured workers return to gainful employment. Everyone can agree that defense attorney fees are not regulated nearly as much as Clamant attorney fees.
Some will say they are not regulated at all. For the most part, defense fees are based on billable hours. The simple math for this is, the more hours you work on a case, the more you bill, the more money you make. This could give attorneys an incentive to drag cases out longer than they should, especially if the fees are not regulated.
The reality is that there are bad actors on both sides, as in any industry. The parties need to work together and formulate a system that protects employees and employers.
In a perfect world, the system would work seamlessly. The goal should be for this to be as efficient as possible so that the injured workers are able to return to work as quickly as possible, with as minimal of a financial burden on them and their families as possible. The parties from all interested groups have to come together and find a common ground that continues to protect the employee and the employer.
Throughout Mr. Masnikoff’s sixteen-year career, he has seen the law change many times. We take the time to make sure you fully understand the law and the complex issues that will arise. We would love to discuss your case and explain all of your options to make sure that you receive the benefits that you are entitled to and that those who wrongfully withhold those benefits are held accountable. If you or someone you know is in this situation, please give us a call at (877)817-4127.