In a landslide vote, the Florida House approves House bill 7085, a workers’ compensation bill that makes business owners smile but does it fully protect injured workers?
Last year, the state’s workers’ comp system took a serious hit when the state Supreme Court issued a series of rulings that eliminated portions of the system. That move resulted in a workers’ comp rate increase of 14.5 percent, or $1.5 billion, starting December 1. And the rate increase did not include additional benefits for injured workers even though it sometimes ended in additional income to attorneys.
“For almost a year, attorneys have received a payday on the backs of injured workers, receiving attorney fees in some instances of $400 an hour,” said Carolyn Johnson, Director of Business, Economic Development and Innovation Policy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “The Florida Chamber commends Rep. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills) and House leadership for their work on reining in out-of-control attorney fees, preventing unnecessary litigation and helping injured workers get back to work quickly.”
This Florida Chamber-backed bill will:
- Realign the amount of attorney fees to the amount secured for the injured workers,
- Place a cap on attorney fees of $150 per hour,
- Encourage affected employees to avoid drawn-out court proceedings, and
- Reduce rates for job creators.
Now, the House will need to work across the hall with the Senate for a final plan before the end of Session 2017 on May 5. One wrinkle to iron out includes attorney’s fees.
The House bill caps fees for attorneys hired by injured workers at $150 per hour and the Senate bill (SB 1582) is set higher at $250 per hour.
Another issue to sort out relates to reimbursements for hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers that treat injured workers.
Critics of House bill 7085 say it won’t do enough for injured workers.
“The injured worker deserves something, something, and they are not getting anything out of this bill,” said Rep. Sean Shaw, a Tampa Democrat who’s a former state insurance consumer advocate.
The bill now travels to the Florida Senate for legislative action.