Injured workers in Florida suffered a major setback in May 2009, when the Florida Legislature adopted a workers’ compensation bill which significantly limits the amount of fees their attorneys may recover from workers’ compensation insurance companies for forcing them to pay benefits through litigation. Not surprisingly, the Republican-controlled legislature failed to pass a similar measure limiting the amount of fees insurance companies may pay their own lawyers to defend against paying benefits to injured workers.
In a last minute about-face, the Florida Senate, led by Jeff Atwater (R), abandoned its own fair bill in favor of the House version sponsored by South Florida Representative, Anitere Flores (R). The surprise move came just one day after Senate President Atwater announced from the Senate podium that the Senate preferred its version of the workers’ compensation bill over the House’s version.
The legislature’s action was in response to a Florida Supreme Court decision handed down in October, 2008, in Emma Murray vs. Mariner Health and ACE USA, 994 So. 2d 1051 (Fla. 2008), a case which held, in essence, that fees paid to claimants’ attorneys must be reasonable. The 2009 Florida Legislature felt otherwise, choosing instead to craft legislation which removed the word “reasonable” from 440.34, the section of the Florida statute dealing with claimant’s attorney’s fees. As a result, employers and carriers ordered by workers’ compensation judges to furnish wrongly denied benefits no longer have to pay the claimant’s attorney reasonable fees for successfully securing the benefits.
The statute will be challenged as unconstitutional. However, it will take years for a final decision to be handed down by the Florida Supreme Court. Until then, injured workers’ attorneys will be operating at a significant disadvantage to their better-funded opponents.
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.
Contact us at 866-785-GALE or by email to learn your rights.