U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” The meaning of the proverb is that, if necessary, blunt force will be used to compel compliance with reasonable behavior. It works.
In Castellanos v. Next Door Company, the Florida Supreme Court gave injured workers a big stick. It is Section 440.34(3) Florida Statutes.
The Castellanos version of 440.34(3) gives employers and their workers’ compensation insurance companies thirty days (30), a safe harbor period, to provide requested benefits without risking having to pay the injured worker’s attorney’s fees. The risk can be sizeable. Hourly attorney fee rates range from $200 to $400 and complex cases can involve hundreds of hours of legal work.
This threat, the big stick, is usually effective in getting carriers to furnish needed benefits without a fight. Since the value of benefits at stake is often greater than the exposure for attorney’s fees, it makes practical sense for carriers to be cooperative. In the days when injured workers did not have the big stick, it was the policy and procedure of most insurance companies to summarily deny benefits since the adverse consequences of being proven wrong were de minimis.