Florida Workers’ Compensation Rates Cut to Reflect Lawyer Fee Cap Law

June 3, 2009

Florida’s insurance regulator has approved a rollback of workers’ compensation insurance rates from April 1 rates to the lower rates that were in effect on Jan. 1.

The order by Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty came as a result of Gov. Charlie Crist’s signing into law of HB 903, legislation that restores a cap on attorney fees and clarifies related statutory language that the Florida Supreme Court had determined to be ambiguous.

On Feb. 26, McCarty had approved a 6.4 percent increase, citing the cost increases expected as a result of the Oct. 23 Supreme Court opinion in the case of Emma Murray v. Mariner Health Inc.

The rate rollback will save Florida employers about $172 million in insurance costs, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. It effectively restores an 18.6 percent rate decrease that took effect Jan. 1 and had a projected savings of $610 million for employers.

The lower rates apply to new and renewal business starting July 1. The rates are based on a filing by the insurers’ National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI).

The Supreme Court’s decision in Emma Murray v. Mariner Health Inc. eliminated caps on attorney fees that were imposed as a result of reforms enacted in 2003.

Under the new law signed by Gov. Crist, attorneys will continue to be paid based on a fee schedule of 20/15/10/5 percent of benefits secured. Hourly fees will not be allowed.

Lawyers have argued that the cap on fees hurts injured workers’ access to legal representation.

But McCarty rejected that argument. “I believe that injured workers still will have appropriate access to the legal system while also still keeping workers’ compensation rates affordable for employers,” he said.

Topics Legislation Florida Workers' Compensation Talent

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