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Uncertain Future of Florida Workers’ Comp System

The Uncertain Future of Florida Workers’ Compensation System

 

Florida’s workers’ compensation system has been a hot topic this year among lawmakers, businesses, and labor groups in the wake of two Florida Supreme Court rulings that found parts of the system unconstitutional. The immediate result of these rulings has been a substantial rate increase for Florida businesses. Businesses express concerns about the amount of money spent on attorneys who represent injured workers. Workers’ compensation attorneys are troubled by insurance companies who do not properly pay claims to the insured. Labor unions are unhappy with a system that has reduced benefits for those injured on the job. Overall, it looks to be a tumultuous year ahead for the workers’ compensation system.

Supreme Court Rulings Have Serious Impact

In April of this year, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the attorney fee schedule, which was passed in 2009 as part of state reforms, is unconstitutional under Florida’s constitution as well as the U.S Constitution. It ruled that the fee schedule was a violation of due process, because it presumes that the attorney fee, which is based according to the schedule, is reasonable, thereby eliminating the right of a claimant to refute or negotiate another fee.

The Florida Legislature has expressed concerns about excessive attorney fee awards and has tried to standardize fees to address that concern. The Florida Supreme Court held that the statutory fee schedule did not reflect the time and effort that would be required by a claimant’s counsel. Furthermore, adherence to that schedule resulted in a substantial and increasing gap between the fees paid to claimant attorneys and those paid to counsel representing employers or carriers in the same case. The Court also noted that, since the law does not provide a standard to adjust fees when the recovery is too high in relation to the time and effort involved, excessive fees are still a result of the statutory fee schedule. Current law, it determined, discourages attorneys from representing claimants in certain cases.

Subsequently in another case, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state’s statutory 104-week cap on temporary disability benefits was also unconstitutional, saying the limitation resulted in a statutory gap in benefits which violated the constitutional right to access to court.

Resulting Rate Increases

In response to the rulings, the National Council of Compensation Insurers (NCCI), which files on behalf of Florida insurers, instituted a rate increase request of 19.6 percent. The request was denied by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), and NCCI was instead ordered to amend and refile its rate increase for 14.5 percent. In October, that rate request was approved for all policies effective December 1, 2016.

Florida insurance advocates believe that employers and small business owners will suffer unless the state revamps the workers’ compensation system to address these new Court rulings.

Workers’ compensation laws are complex so trust a skilled Florida workers’ compensation attorney to successfully navigate the system

Florida’s workers’ compensation laws are complex. The recent changes brought about by the Florida Supreme Court rulings can make the laws all the more confusing. If you or a loved one has suffered a work-related injury, don’t try and navigate the worker’s compensation system alone. Since 1994, Board Certified workers’ compensation lawyer Joseph M. Rooth of The Rooth Law Firm has helped injured and disabled workers obtain much-needed medical and wage replacement benefits for their work-related injuries. Contact our office today at 727-849-3400 or online to schedule a free consultation. With convenient offices located in New Port Richey, Spring Hill, Seminole and Clearwater, we serve clients in New Port Richey and throughout the Tampa Bay area.

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Understanding Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Laws

Whether you are an employer or an employee in Florida, you need to understand the state’s workers’ compensation laws so that you know what your responsibilities and rights are. If you are an employer and have not taken the appropriate steps to meet the legal requirements, you could put your entire business in jeopardy if one of your workers is injured on the job. If you are an employee, you need to understand your rights under the law so that you can be fairly compensated if you are injured while working. In either scenario, working with an experienced Florida workers’ compensation attorney can help you better understand the laws and how they apply to your case.

In Florida, all businesses are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance if they have four or more employees, whether they are full-time or part-time workers. Executive officers and managers count as employees unless they have been granted a special exemption.

Business owners in the construction industry can apply for an exemption for themselves and must pay $50 for the privilege. If the exemption is granted, it must be renewed every two years. Construction industry corporations can also exempt up to three of the officers, as long as the officers own at least 10 percent of the stock in the company. An LLC can exempt up to three owners using the same criteria. Sole proprietors cannot exempt themselves.

Corporations that are not in the construction industry can exempt all their officers, no matter the number. There is no fee for this exemption like there is for construction workers. LLC owners can also apply for an exemption. Sole proprietors of businesses outside the construction industry are excluded from purchasing workers’ compensation. If they want to purchase workers’ compensation insurance, they must apply to do so.

Workers’ compensation insurance pays for the medical care of employees who are injured on the job, and it provides some lost wages. The coverage also provides payment for those who have become ill as a result of workplace conditions, such as exposure to hazardous chemicals, and it provides payment for the families of those who have died as a result of injury or illness at work.

Florida workers’ compensation laws also protect workers against retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation suit.

The awarding of workers’ compensation benefits is contingent upon a number of criteria, including reporting the illness or injury within 30 days and undergoing an independent medical examination. Florida is a no-fault state for workers’ compensation claims, so employees do not have to prove fault in order to qualify for benefits.

Despite the clear mandate for workers’ compensation coverage and the awarding of benefits, many employers try to find ways around carrying the coverage or awarding the benefits to keep their costs low. An experienced Florida workers’ compensation lawyer can help employees get the benefits to which they are entitled so that they can get the medical care they need and continue to provide financially for their families.

The Florida workers’ compensation attorney at the Rooth Law Firm has been fighting for justice on behalf of injured workers in Florida for many years. We are dedicated to getting you the full compensation that the law provides for your injuries. We help you understand Florida’s workers’ compensation laws and your rights, and help you get the full benefits you deserve. Call us today at (727) 849-3400, or contact us online to find out how our knowledgeable Florida workers’ compensation attorney can help you.

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What Happens If You’re Injured on the Job?

Your workplace should be a safe haven where you can do your job effectively without fear of injury or illness. However, accidents can happen anywhere. You can work in a safe office environment where the most dangerous thing appears to be the sharp corner on your desk, but still be seriously injured when you slip on a puddle or burn yourself on a malfunctioning coffee pot. Of course, if you work with heavy machinery or chemicals, the risk for injury or illness is much greater.

If you are injured on the job, your medical care and time lost from work should be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. In Florida, all businesses that have four or more employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Some employees can be exempt from coverage, such as business owners or real estate agents who work exclusively on commission.

To get workers’ compensation benefits, it is important that you act quickly and appropriately after an accident at work. If you are injured, you need to alert your employer and seek medical attention immediately. For minor injuries, such as a cut or sprain, you may be able to get first aid care on the scene. However, if the accident is more serious, such as a fall from a great height or a head trauma from a piece of heavy machinery, you should seek emergency medical care.

To receive workers’ compensation benefits, you must be treated by a doctor designated by your employer and the workers’ compensation board. You may be able to see your own doctor if you request the change in writing and it is approved.

It doesn’t matter if you are injured on site or off. If you are working on behalf of your employer at another location — such as by making a delivery or visiting a client off site — you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

After you seek medical treatment, you should contact a New Port Richey workers’ compensation attorney. The extent of your injuries may not be immediately apparent when you file your workers’ compensation claim, so you may not get the full compensation that you deserve. An experienced attorney will work with a team of experts on your behalf to make a case for how your work-related injuries will impact your life, both in terms of the medical care you will need and in your ability (or inability) to work.

Work-related injuries are not always apparent. Repetitive motion can cause stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis that can cause chronic pain. Exposure to toxic chemicals over time can lead to life-threatening diseases. For example, exposure to asbestos and benzene — common industrial chemicals — have both been linked to cancer.

Attorney Joseph Rooth, is a highly-skilled New Port Richey workers’ compensation attorney at The Rooth Law Firm. Trust attorney Rooth to build a strong case to show how your work environment led to the development of serious health conditions, helping you get the full compensation you deserve for what may end up being lifelong medical care, as well as your pain and suffering.

Attorney Joe Rooth of The Rooth Law Firm has been representing injured workers in New Port Richey for decades, and our team is committed to getting you the full compensation you deserve for your workplace injuries. We serve as a tough legal advocate for your rights while acting with compassion as we guide you through the legal process. Call us today at (727) 849-3400 to find out how our New Port Richey workers’ compensation attorney can help, or contact us online.

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