Florida’s business community is facing a $1.5 billion impact from workers’ comp rates. Compared to 2016, workers’ comp rates were up 14.5 percent. With the 2018 Legislative Session now underway, the Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line public affairs program recently talked with David Langham, Deputy Chief Judge, for a closer look at Florida’s workers’ compensation.
Judge Langham said the 2016-17 statistics in the Judges for Compensation Claims Annual Report show an almost 200 percent increase in claimant attorney hourly fees. He said there was a jump from $23 million to $75 million, despite predicting petition filing volumes remaining the same in 2018.
“The Miles decision allows injured workers to enter into contracts of representation with attorneys that could be to their detriment. We’ve seen some attorneys fees at 25 percent. We’ve heard, anecdotally, of attorneys fees greater than 25 percent and those dollars are coming out of the injured workers pocket to pay an attorney for representation,” Langham said. “The 2016-17 statistics in our annual report demonstrate that we see less statutory fees [the presumptive formula fees] and more hourly fees. There has been a lot in the news about this 36 percent increase in claimants attorneys fees, the lion’s share of that has been hourly fees paid in that perspective.”
Rep. Danny Burgess sponsored HB 7009, which passed the full House last week. The bill creates a new attorney fee schedule and addresses other provisions related to the Florida Supreme Court cases that resulted in higher workers’ comp premiums.