“Unfortunately, the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling is not about safety or protecting workers. The effect of the Castellanos decision is to raise costs for no other reason than so plaintiff trial lawyers can raise fees, “ said Mark Wilson, the Florida Chamber of Commerce President.
Rulings at the Florida Supreme Court in Castellanos versus Next Door Company in April 2106 and Bradley Westphal v. City of Petersburg in June 2016 allowed negotiated fee agreements between claimants and attorneys and meant a claimant’s attorney is no longer prohibited from receiving compensation beyond the state’s statutory fee schedule. That fee schedule was $50/hour in some cases. The original curb on attorney’s fees was approved by the Florida State legislature in 2003.
The result of this undoing of the 2003 legislation: A 14.5% average premium hike on new and renewal workman’s compensation policies effective December 1. “Today’s workers’ compensation rate increase is a hard hit to small business owners and our economy,” said Bill Herrle, Executive Director for Florida of the National Federation of Independent Business. “Our small business owners will be paying the price.” One silver lining is that these changes are only effective for new and renewal policies. The impact is buffered over the next year as some policies won’t feel this rate increase until December 2017.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce issued a written statement complaining the increase “greenlights plaintiff trial lawyers to increase their own compensation on the backs of job creators.” The National Council on Compensation Insurance has estimated the industry faces $1 billion in unfunded liabilities.
What are the Florida business association plans? “We continue to support the 2003 reforms to Florida’s worker’s compensation system that protected employees and controlled costs for employers prior to the rulings,” said Logan McFaddin, Group Regional Manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.
What do trial lawyers have to say? Mark Touby, President of Florida Workers Advocates says attorney fees aren’t to blame but “the insurance industry’s secretive ploy for corporate welfare to line its own pockets.”
Whew! Concerns and finger pointing run rampant when 14.5% increases are implemented.
Want to know more about the P&C Insurance Industry and career opportunities there? Sean Murphy, Executive Recruiter at Smith Hanley Associates and P&C Actuarial Practice Lead welcomes a conversation at [email protected] or 312-629-2400.