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The Florida House of Representatives approved a workers compensation reform bill Wednesday that extends temporary total and partial disability benefits and addresses attorney fees in comp cases.
House Bill 7085, which passed 82–37, increases the duration of temporary total disability and temporary partial disability benefits to 260 weeks from 104 weeks, addressing a gap that exists when workers comp disability benefits end but an injured worker has not reached maximum medical improvement or been declared permanently impaired. The bill also addresses attorney fees in workers comp cases by allowing a Judge of Compensation Claims to award an hourly fee different from the statutory percentage-based attorney fee schedule. Both measures are responses to Florida Supreme Court decisions last year that deemed parts of the state’s workers comp rules unconstitutional.
If enacted, the bill would be effective July 1.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 1582, introduced by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, passed the Senate Rules Committee unanimously Wednesday. The bill, which also addresses TTD/TPD caps and attorney fees, cleared the state Senate Banking and Insurance committee on April 3 and the state Senate Appropriations committee on April 13. The bill is now before the full Senate.
Workers comp cost increases stemming from the Bradley Westphal vs. City of St. Petersburg and Marvin Castellanos v. Next Door Co. et al. rulings last year prompted the National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc. to file for a 19.6% workers comp rate hike in Florida. NCCI said in November that the Castellanos decision has caused workers comp attorney fees to increase 22% in the state, while an earlier NCCI estimate said that both court rulings could cause overall comp costs to increase as much as 38%.
A bill that would put insurance ratings agencies on notice and allow insurers to independently research and file their own workers compensation insurance rates in Florida, among other key changes, is making its way through the state Senate.