How is “compromise” defined?
According to the Florida Justice Association, some lawmakers have no idea.
“We’re extremely disappointed in the workers’ compensation proposal passed by the Florida House Commerce Committee. The revised HB 7085 severely limits an injured worker’s ability to achieve the real goal of the Florida’s worker’s compensation system: To help them get well quickly and return to their job,” said Richard Chait, Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Section of the Florida Justice Association.
In a nutshell, House Bill 7085 was approved by the House Commerce Committee last week and overhauls workers’ compensation in Florida. As the bill stands now, attorneys filing benefits challenges will have to show the time they have worked a case before trial. This is in an effort to prevent padding the bills. Also, attorney fees aren’t paid unless the injured worker wins the case and the injured worker is responsible for the legal fees.
That amended bill is on its way to the full House. (The House bill differs from the proposed Senate bill, which includes higher maximum hourly fees for the attorney.)
The FJA also says the so-called “compromise” workers’ compensation proposal embraced by a House committee last week is no compromise at all. FJA calls it handout to the insurance industry and its big-business allies that does little to benefit injured workers or most employers.
Chait adds that any workers’ compensation reform needs to include the ability for an injured person to decide which doctor they want to see, the option of reasonable attorney fees so injured workers could go to court if necessary, and a mid-level tier for benefits. FJA also wants to see transparency and competition in the rate-making process.
“The eventual outcome of the current approach will be that more injured workers will receive inadequate health care treatment to help them recover. Injured workers will be hard-pressed to return to work with their employer, and this will put an additional drain on government social programs,” added Chait. “In the end, the burden for those costs will be shouldered by Florida taxpayers.”
But those on the other side of the issue say this “compromise” is a step in the right direction.
“It’s laughable that the trial lawyers continue the charade that they care for folks injured on the job. Everyone knows the trial lawyers are only interested in how much money they can take from the system. They continue to mention that they need a reasonable fee to do the work. What is reasonable about $38,000 in attorney fees for getting an injured worker $800 in benefits?” asks Carolyn Johnson, Director of Business, Economic Development & Innovation Policy with the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “We applaud Speaker Richard Corcoran and Chair Danny Burgess for their continued work to get this right, for employers and injured workers alike. After all, this should not be about how much in attorney’s fees a trial lawyer can get, but instead should be about getting injured workers healthy and back to work.”
“Contrary to the trial lawyers looking out for their own self interests, Florida’s employers and employees are at the top of mind with the newly amended workers’ compensation legislation. Representative Burgess’ HB 7085 addresses key measures that allow for a stable, self-executing and affordable workers’ compensation system for injured workers,” says AIF President & CEO Tom Feeney. “The trial lawyers plain and simply do not like this legislation because it does not allow them to get richer at the expense of small businesses, consumers and injured employees. On behalf of Florida’s business community, we look forward to seeing this legislation advance so Florida’s employees are able to get healthier at reasonable rates to Florida employers.”
“The bill in its current form misses an opportunity to enact true, balanced, and comprehensive reform to make the system better for injured workers,” Chait added. “The only people smiling about this proposal are the corporate and insurance special interests who received a windfall at the expense of workers.”