The workers’ compensation market in the state of Florida has faced some turbulent times over the last year. More shocking news came the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in the form of a ruling by Leon County Circuit Court. Judge Karen Gievers released the shocking news in the form of a ruling in a case that claims the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) and the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) did not follow proper procedure under the states Sunshine Law.
The case that is challenging this ruling was brought before the court by James Fee. Fee is a Miami attorney who represents injured workers. He claimed, and Judge Gievers agreed, that NCCI was in violation of the Sunshine Laws by holding “multiple, non-public, secret meetings” internally and with the OIR over the rates. Representatives with NCCI and the OIR claim they have complied with the Sunshine Laws.
How much was the rate increase in Florida?
The total rate change was an in crease 14.5% for workers compensation insurance coverage, on average throughout the state of Florida.
What cause the rate increase?
The rate increase was the result of two court cases, Castellanos v. Next Door Company and Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg, and updates to the Florida Workers’ Compensation Health Care Provider Reimbursement Manual mandated by Senate Bill 1402.
Castellanos vs. Next Door Company
Marvin Castellanos was an injured employee who sued Next Door Company. This court decision ruled invalid a previous court ruling from 2009. The previous ruling put in place a mandatory attorney fee schedule. THe overturn of this ruling means judges no longer have to stick to the mandatory fee schedule and now can award additional compensation for attorney’s fees. The judges now use the fee schedule as a starting point. This will cause the amount judges award to injured employees to increase dramatically because there is no longer a cap on what the judges can recommend for compensation to the injured employees attorney fees. This ruling resulted in the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) approving an increase of 10.1 percent on average statewide.
Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg
The Westphal vs. City of St. Petersburg case found the 104-week statutory limitation on temporary total disability benefits to be unconstitutional. The Florida Supreme Court reinstated a 260-week limitation. This Increased the amount of time an injured employees will get partial salary benefits by an additional 156 weeks. This additional 156 weeks of coverage caused the OIR to approve an average increase of 2.2 percent statewide.
Senate Bill 1402
The additional 1.8 percent increase on premium for workers’ compensation was related to updates within the Florida Workers’ Compensation HCPR Manual. This increase was approved as part of Senate Bill 1402.