Friday, October 24, 2008

Florida Supreme Court Overturns Workers' Comp Attorney Fee Limits

The Florida Supreme Court announced its final ruling in Murray v. Mariners Health/ACE USA, reinstating hourly attorneys' fees in workers compensation cases.

In response to the announcement, William Stander, assistant vice president and regional manager of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America referenced SB 50A passed during the 2003 Florida Legislative Session.

"Since the 2003 reform bill passed, workers compensation rates have decreased by over 60 percent, saving employers hundreds of millions of dollars annually," Stander said. "Eliminating hourly attorneys' fees, a key cost driver, was an integral component to the 2003 legislation." Stander added that the Oct. 23 decision will drive more litigation back into the system and drain more money from employers' pockets.

According to the Workers' Compensation Coalition for Business & Insurance Industry, the Court's decision could negatively impact Florida's employees through potential rate increases that will constrict job growth and employee raises. With the restoration of hourly attorney fees, the Court has revived one of the system's prime drivers of claim costs -- excessive attorney involvement, WCCBII added.

"Florida's workers' compensation system averted a crisis with landmark reforms in 2003, which eliminated unaffordable rates, widespread fraud and poor compliance with insurance requirements, while providing reasonably priced workers' compensation insurance that covered more employees than ever before," said Tamela Perdue, WCCBII chair. "As a result, injured workers continued to receive benefits, found legal representation when needed, and returned to work. Unfortunately, today's Supreme Court decision has put us right back into another potential crisis."

[Thanks to DVD for the article]

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