Proving compensability of heart attacks and strokes under Florida’s workers’ compensation system has always been difficult. Even when the law allowed the award of “reasonable” carrier-paid hourly attorney’s fees to the successful Claimant’s attorney, whether or not to accept a case required serious thoughtful consideration. Now that Florida’s new attorney’s fee statute, Section 440.34 (effective July 1, 2009), drastically reduces Claimants’ attorneys’ fees, the practical financial viability of these cases for Claimants’ attorneys is in serious question.
Heart Attack and Stroke cases are fact-intensive, require numerous medical opinions, and involve several complex legal issues. This translates into time consuming and costly cases for Claimants’ attorneys.
The primary issue in these cases is whether or not the medical event was occasioned by a preexisting condition. The outcome will determine the type of evidence that is required to prevail, which is often the difference between winning and losing. If a preexisting condition exists, the Claimant must show that the heart attack or stroke was caused by unusual physical strain not routine to the type of work the employee was accustomed to performing. If no evidence exists of a preexisting condition, the Claimant need only show that the event was caused by any amount of exertion. See Zundell v. Dade County School Bd., 636 So.2d 8 (Fla. 1994).
As everyone knows, heart attacks and strokes are frequently occasioned by preexisting conditions.
Unfortunately, the new 440.34 does not reward Claimants’ attorneys for working hard and taking serious financial risks for injured workers. In fact, the law was designed to discourage Claimants’ attorneys from accepting workers’ compensation cases, especially difficult cases.
Our law firm continues to accept workers’ compensation cases. Contact us at 866-785-GALE or by email to learn your legal rights.
Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.