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Florida's Injured Workers Win Big Victory In Supreme Court
Friday May 27, 2016 | Staff

The Florida Supreme Court recently invalidated a 2009 amendment to the Florida Worker's Compensation Statute that frequently resulted in minuscule fees and at times prevented workers from contesting an insurance company's unreasonable denial of benefits. The insurance industry has never had any limitation on what it could pay its attorneys to defend worker's compensation claims. However, in 2009 it convinced the Florida legislature to create such a limitation for the attorneys representing the injured worker. The 2009 legislation limited fees to 20% of the first $5,000.00 in benefits and 15% of the next $5,000.00 in benefits won. In the case of Castellanos v. Next Door Company, the worker's compensation carrier denied benefits and raised twelve defenses. Both the attorney for the insurance carrier and worker's attorney spent over 100 hours litigating the denial of benefits. Ultimately the worker prevailed and won benefits of approximately $850.00.

The Judge of Compensation Claims found the time spent by the worker's attorney to be reasonable, but based on the limitations in the statute he was limited in the amount he could award as a fee to the successful attorney to 15% of the value of the claim. This limitation amounted to the attorney receiving a fee of approximately $1.50 per hour. An appeal ensued in which the constitutionality of this fee limitation was attacked. Recently, the Florida Supreme Court struck down this portion of the law based on a denial of due process contending that it denied a worker reasonable access to the courts to contest a denial of the compensation benefits. We will keep you posted on what reaction will be from business interests regarding this development.

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