Workers’ comp rates take another hit

The Florida Supreme Court has struck down yet another pillar of workers’ compensation law, threatening to drive business costs even higher to an estimated 20 percent according to the National Federation of Independent Business in Florida (NFIB).

The ruling in Westphal v City of St. Petersburg states the current two year cap on temporary disability benefits is unconstitutionally short.

This ruling comes on the heels of Castellanos v Next Door Company in which the court threw out a 2003 reform that set attorneys’ fee costs.

The National Council on Compensation (NCCI), an independent organization that makes workers comp rate adjustment recommendations, made an emergency recommended increase in May of 17.1 percent.

Normally, the NCCI analyzes the market and makes rate change recommendations on an annual basis with the changes taking effect at the start of the year.

NFIB Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle said this was an unusual circumstance. The NFIB represents independent businesses throughout the country.

“The anticipated effect of the Castellanos case was so strong and so immediate that they took the unusual step of filing an adjustment request for 17.1 percent and furthermore in an even more unusual step, requested that the change be effective Aug. 1,” Herrle said.

The ruling was no surprise to the Florida Chamber of Commerce said its Director of Business, Economic Development and Innovation Policy Carolyn Johnson.

“We were anticipating Westphal to be against the business community once again,” Johnson said. “The Florida Supreme Court made it very clear in Castellanos and again in Westphal that they feel that the workers’ comp system has swung too far in favor of the employer/carrier and has provided a menu list of items that if given the right case, they would declare these items unconstitutional as well.”

Herrle said that although the latest case appears to help injured workers, it actually hurts them by dragging out the time they are in limbo.

Read the full article in the June 23 issue of Navarre Press. Click HERE to subscribe online to your community newspaper.

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