The Florida House of Representatives has passed H.B. 7085, the much anticipated workers’ compensation reform bill. As you recall, the rates increased by 14.5% last December. This resulted from Florida Supreme Court decisions, including Castellanos and Westphal.
The new bill is estimated to reduce the rates by at least 5% according to the National Council of Compensation Insurance (NCCI). The provisions of the bill were created to meet three objectives:
- To be constitutional. (So we’re not in the same mess two years from now.)
- To strike a balance that benefits both employers and employees.
- To increase competition among insurers. (And hopefully drive down rates.)
Those provisions include:
- Increasing the specificity of petitions for benefits
- Increasing the maximum number of weeks for benefits from 104 to 260 weeks
- Allowing injured workers to enter into retainer agreements with their attorneys
- Giving judges more discretion when awarding attorneys’ fees
- Capping the hourly attorneys’ fees at $150
- Allowing insurers to deviate from the set rates by 5%
The bill was sent to the Senate which recently sent their own workers’ compensation reform bill to the floor. There are two key differences between the House and the Senate bills:
- The House bill caps attorneys’ fees at $150, the Senate at $250.
- The Senate bill would allow insurers to file their rates with the state independently.
If and when the Senate passes their bill, the two groups will confer and send a bill to the governor prior to May 5th, when the legislative session ends. A lot could change between now and then so stay tuned.