Workers Compensation laws in Florida found unconstitutional

Workers compensation lawyers who represent workers injured on the job have recently gotten good news from the Florida Supreme Court. That good news was even better for the injured worker because these decisions expanded wage loss benefits and fees for lawyer who fight to get benefits for these workers. Those fees, contingency fees, are paid by the insurance companies when the employee’s lawyers win the case.

In 2009 the Florida legislature limited fees to these lawyers so much that workers were effectively denied benefits because no lawyer could afford to take on cases involving the denial of certain low cost benefits. The statue went so far as to make it a crime for a lawyer to contract with an injured worker for fees that were not approved by a judge of compensation claims. Judges are bound by the statute regulating payment of fees to lawyers representing the employee.

Among the many absurd results this law caused was one where the lawyer litigated the workers entitlement to medical benefits valued at $850.00. The lawyer prevailed and got the statutory fee which worked out to $1.53 per hour. Unsatisfied, and willing and able to appeal the lawyer got the statute declared unconstitutional.

Another very important case found unconstitutional a portion of the statute which dealt with the length of time the employer’s workers compensation carrier would have to pay wage benefits. The law which was declared unconstitutional limited wage benefits to 104 weeks. The Florida Supreme Court ordered that an earlier version of the law be implemented which provided for 260 weeks of wage benefits.

Workers rights in Florida are very limited. Employers have immunity from negligence claims when they provide workers compensation benefits, and because Florida is a “right to work” state, unions are not as strong as they could be. These recent Supreme Court decisions help protect the worker, even if in only a small way. On the job injuries can be catastrophic for workers. Know your rights. If you have questions, call a lawyer, or the Bureau of Employee Assistance 800-342-1742. The web address for this State office is http://www.myfloridacfo.com/division/wc/employee/eao.htm

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