Florida’s workers’ compensation system has been experiencing significant turbulence over the last few years, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
In 2016, the Florida Supreme Court caused a major change to the workers’ comp system when it ruled in the case Castellanos v. Next Door Company. Marvin Castellanos of Miami suffered neck, shoulder, and head injuries while working for Next Door Company. His workers’ compensation case went to court, and Castellanos was only awarded $822.70 compared to the nearly $37,000 that his attorney had fought for. The attorney himself only earned $164 due to the fee laws that state the attorney receives 20 percent of the first $5,000 in benefits and 15 percent of the next $5,000.
The Florida Supreme Court ultimately ruled against fee restrictions based on the rationale that it violates workers’ due process rights under the state and U.S Constitution. As one judge for the majority wrote, “Without the likelihood of an adequate attorney’s fee award, there is little disincentive for a carrier to deny benefits or to raise multiple defenses…Virtually since its inception, the right of a claimant to obtain a reasonable prevailing party attorney’s fee has been central to the workers’ compensation law.”
Though the Florida Supreme Court’s decision was a victory for attorneys and employees, it dealt a major blow to businesses who have since experienced a 14 percent increase in insurance rates. The Florida House and Senate both created bills in an effort to address the issue of rising insurance costs and attorney’s fees, but they failed to pass anything before their legislative session came to a close in early May.
The biggest sticking point between the bills is, of course, the matter of attorney fees. The Senate wants to cap fees at $250 an hour, while the House wants a lower cap at $180. Rep. Danny Burgess, who sponsored the House bill, explained, “[We are] trying to provide substantial reform to address rising rates from recent court decisions… We have to solve this problem before us. Every small business in the state of Florida is watching us now.”
Though no resolution will occur in the near future, you can still fight your own workers’ compensation battles with the help of Catania and Catania Attorneys at Law. The experienced attorneys at Catania and Catania have 25 years of experience serving the Tampa area, and they understand the workers’ compensation system inside and out. Call 1 (800) 253-5523 today to learn exactly what Catania and Catania can do for you.