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The Florida Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously passed a workers compensation reform bill on Thursday.
Senate Bill 1582, introduced by Florida Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, would increase a time limit on temporary partial disability and temporary total disability benefits from 104 weeks to 260 weeks. The change would codify workers comp case law established under Bradley Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg, a 2016 Florida Supreme Court decision that found the 104-week time limit to be unconstitutional.
The bill also would make changes related to workers comp attorney fees after the Florida Supreme Court ruled last year in Marvin Castellanos v. Next Door Co. that a cap on workers comp claimant attorney fees was unconstitutional. S.B. 1582 requires the Florida Judge of Compensation Claims to consider certain factors when determining if attorney fees should be increased or decreased based on a maximum hourly rate of $250, removes the criminal penalty for claimant attorneys receiving fees not approved by the judge, thereby allowing claimants to enter retainer agreements, and removes an attorney fee cap of $1,500 on medical-only claims.
Other reforms in the bill include covering multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkins lymphoma under workers comp for firefighters and implementing loss costs rating, which would require insurers to seek approval for rates based on aggregate claim information filed by a rating organization with individual company data used for the final rate.
The bill is now awaiting consideration in the Florida Senate Rules Committee, which is scheduled to meet Wednesday, according to a Florida Senate spokeswoman.
The head of the National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc. said the organization is looking forward to defending against a lawsuit accusing it and Florida insurance regulators of developing a controversial rate hike for workers comp coverage in secret.