A Major Change In Florida Workers’ Comp Laws Regarding Attorney Fee Caps in WC Claims
In a ruling by the First District Court in Tallahassee, Appellate Judge Bradford Thomas stated that current laws placing statutory restrictions on a person’s right to enter into a contract waiving statutory limits on attorney fees in WC Claims was unconstitutional. In the opinion, Thomas wrote, “the proper remedy is to allow an injured worker and an attorney to enter into a fee agreement approved by the [judge of compensation claims], notwithstanding the statutory restrictions.”
Plaintiff’s attorneys are viewing the ruling as a victory while opponents allege waiving statutory restrictions on attorney fees in WC Claims will increase the number of workers’ compensation claims filed in Florida and it will increase the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for Florida businesses.
Modifying the Cap on Attorney’s Fees in WC Claims
The new appeals court decision declared Florida’s restrictions prohibiting injured workers from entering contracts with workers’ compensations lawyers for fees higher than the current cap unconstitutional. Because of this case, injured workers will now be able to sign contracts that waive the caps placed on attorney’s fees in WC claims in 2003. Prior to this decision, attorneys could be prosecuted for a crime if the attorney entered into a contract with an injured worker that was outside of the workers’ compensation system.
The matter began when Edgewater police officer Martha Miles was injured when she was exposed to chemicals and she filed a workers’ compensation claim. The police department denied her request for benefits. Miles voluntarily dismissed her petitions and her attorney withdrew as counsel. Thereafter, the police union and Miles hired another law firm. As part of the contract, Miles agreed to waive the caps on attorney fees in Florida workers’ compensation cases. A judge denied to approve the retainer agreements causing the attorneys for Miles to withdraw and forcing her to continue the claim representing herself.
During the hearing on the merits of the case, Miles attempted to present six affidavits from various attorneys who said they would not take her case because of the fee restrictions placed on them by Florida’s workers’ compensation laws. The judge refused to approve the attorney retainer agreement and Miles’ claim for workers’ compensation benefits was denied. She requested a rehearing but the judge denied so the case was appealed to the First District Court in Tallahassee.
It was during this appeal that the judge ruled Miles should have the right to enter into a fee agreement even if the agreement exceeds the statutory restrictions. Only time will tell how this will affect workers’ compensation claims and representation throughout Florida.
Have You Been Injured In A Job-Related Accident In Florida?
The Boca Raton workers’ compensation attorneys of The Broderick Law Firm, P.L. care about your workplace injury and your recovery. We understand how frustrating it is when you are injured at work and your employer does not step up to the plate to take responsibility for your medical bills and other damages. If your employer denies your claim, you could be faced with a time-consuming, complex appeal. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling cases throughout the Florida workers’ compensation system. We can help you receive the workers’ comp benefits you are entitled to receive by law.
Contact our office today 1-800-333-3903 to schedule your free claims consultation.