What Has Happened to Florida’s Workers’ Compensation System?
The theory of workers’ compensation is great; a state-mandated program requiring employers to make payments to an employee who was injured or fell ill in directly correlation to his/her job. This provides employees with a safety net in the case of unexpected injury, and it allows employers an avenue to avoid being sued for damages. It sounds like a win-win situation, but the state of Florida is currently struggling with a workers’ compensation program that dramatically benefits insurance companies and business interests rather than the working man.
Guaranteed benefits should provide a huge relief for employees, but the workers’ advocates in Florida accuse legislation of working in the favor of business to slowly but surely chip away at the employee’s support and court recourse. Some judges even agreed, leading to a circuit court ruling in Miami-Dade County that declared the system unconstitutional.
What’s the Problem?
Like many states, Florida employers provide workers’ compensation on the condition that the employee may not seek damages in the court system. Although Florida’s system once offered outstanding benefits like permanent total disability, the premiums employers needed to pay to support the system were difficult to maintain, leading the legislature to place limits on workers’ comp benefits. To keep premiums low, permanent total disability benefits now end after five years, and no permanent partial disability is offered. This has helped cut the business’ premiums by 56 percent, but at the expense of the disabled workers.
Will Things Change?
The ripples are beginning, but will probably be slow to spread. It’s a precarious balance trying to find a way to properly provide employee benefits without penalizing the employers with unsustainable premiums. Finding a way to provide permanent, partial disability will be the trick to helping disabled employees make a living by combining lower income with support. It’s all too often that something has to get worse before it gets better, and it seems that Florida’s compensation system is following that old adage. For anyone impacted by this unfair system, an attorney is the best chance to seek the compensation deserved.