The bad news: Workers’ compensation rates in the Sunshine State will spike.
The good news: They will not rise as high as expected.
On Sept. 27, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation issued an order that will raise workers compensation rates by 14.5 percent — down from the 19.6 percent increase requested by the National Council on Compensation Insurance.
The hike applies to new and renewing policies, effective Dec. 1.
This change came in response to a recent judgment regarding personal injury trial lawyers and the fees they charge. Under current state law, attorneys are paid 20 percent for the first $5,000 and 15 percent of the next $5,000 of any benefits they help secure. But in April, the state Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional to cap attorney fees.
The 5-2 decision stemmed from a case that involved an attorney who was paid less than $200 after working more than 100 hours to successfully represent an injured worker. Justices determined that attorneys should be able to charge a reasonable amount and not be limited to the state’s scheduled legal fees.
Critics of the Florida high court’s ruling said that such an increase would impose a significant setback to small businesses. Policyholders fear that legal fees in workers’ compensation cases will skyrocket as a result.
The Florida Swimming Pool Association is working with partners in the construction industry to combat the issue. The state’s wider business community is getting involved, as well, led by the Associated Industries of Florida.
FSPA is a part of AIF’s Florida Workers Compensation Strategic Task Force, which is seeking a legislative fix for the 2017 session.
In 2003, Florida had one of the highest rates in the country. Reforms, however, brought them down by more than 60 percent over the years.