Workers Comp Insurance Premiums May Decrease In Florida By 2018

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    Workers compensation insurance premiums could see a decrease in Florida starting in 2018. Proposals to review the current rate of premiums have been made since the 14.5% rate increase in December 2016. The rate increase lit a flame between businesses and labor unions, casting the two into an extensive political battle.

    Businesses pleaded with Florida lawmakers to reduce the legal fees on the workers’ compensation insurance premiums. Yet, during the spring legislative session, Florida lawmakers failed to make any changes to the current workers’ compensation laws.

    However, change may be coming anyway. On Monday, August 28, officials with the National Council on Compensation Insurance announced they will be recommending a decrease in the workers’ compensation insurance premiums effective January 1.

    The new recommended premiums would drop by an average of 9.6%, which would be a boon to Florida businesses. First, the Office of Insurance must formally approve the rate decrease or make direct changes to the law before the recommended premium is officially implemented.

    The pause on workers’ compensation legislation was most likely a result of the mass confusion that stemmed from Florida Supreme Court rulings in 2016. The rulings struck down a law passed in 2009 that limited the fees that could be paid to the attorneys for injured workers. Attorney groups and labor advocates worried that the law would make it difficult for injured workers to find legal assistance. According to the Court, the law had violated due process because it assumed that the fees mandated by the statute were reasonable beyond any refutation by the claimant.

    After striking down portions of the workers’ compensation law, the Court then saw to the case of Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital. The case challenged not just the workers’ compensation law of the state, but the entire constitutionality of the Florida workers’ compensation system. Ultimately, the Court chose to abstain from the ruling.

    According to Insurance Journal, “The high court’s decision to pass on Stahl means the First District Court of Appeal’s opinion in this matter, which upheld other elements of the workers’ compensation law, stands, according to state officials.”

    In 2015, the average employee was away from work for a total of eight days due to occupational injuries, and every state has its own laws and regulations for protecting injured workers. In Florida, the higher workers’ comp premiums were meant to reduce the number of people who file workers’ compensation claims by giving employers incentives to more closely monitor their workers’ daily activities.

    While the rate reduction must still be approved, it’s being celebrated as a victory by some attorneys.

    “The NCCI (National Council on Compensation Insurance) proposal for a workers’ compensation rate reduction proves that workers who are denied benefits can find an attorney to represent them without harming the system,” said Richard Chait, chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Section of the Florida Justice Association, in a statement to WJAX.

    The Florida Chamber of Commerce agrees something must be done regarding the Florida Supreme Court ruling on attorney’s fees, and a representative told WJAX that the chamber was “looking forward to examining the details” of the rade reduction.

    In the meantime, workers’ compensation attorneys, labor advocates, and business groups are once again preparing for another legislative battle in the new year.

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