Apr 28

Workers Compensation Attorneys Fee Law Found Unconstitutional

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Supreme Court rules on workers compensation attorneys fees

Finally, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled that workers compensation attorneys don’t have to work for $1.53 an hour. In fact, they ruled the limitation of Claimant’s attorneys’ fees in the work comp arena is unconstitutional.

Today, in Castellanos v. Next Door Company, the Florida Supreme Court ruled the 2009 law is a violation of due-process rights under the Florida Constitution and the U.S. Constitution because it prevents challenges to the “reasonableness” of attorney’s fees awarded in workers’ compensation cases. The ruling stemmed from a case in which an attorney was awarded the equivalent of $1.53 an hour in successfully pursuing a claim for benefits for a worker injured in Miami. In the case, it was undisputed that the Claimant attorney spent 107.2 hours on the case and was entitled to fees of $164.54 — or $1.53 an hour — under the statutory formula.

“This case, and many others like it, demonstrate that despite the stated goal, oftentimes the worker experiences delay and resistance either by the employer or the [insurance] carrier,” wrote Justice Pariente. “Without the likelihood of an adequate attorney’s fee award, there is little disincentive for a carrier to deny benefits or to raise multiple defenses, as was done here.”

This doesn’t mean that all workers compensation attorneys can now get huge attorneys’ fees when fighting for their clients. “Only where the claimant can demonstrate … that the fee schedule results in an unreasonable fee — such as in a case like this — will the claimant’s attorney be entitled to a fee that deviates from the fee schedule,” Justice Pariente wrote.

This is good to see because in my representation of injured workers I have seen some – not all – insurance companies take advantage of the now unconstitutional law. They would refuse this small benefit or that some benefit knowing that the attorney would not be able to litigate that issue under the fee statute. As a result, the injured worker was without due and owing benefits. Also, now the statute removes the cap on workers compensation attorneys fee which levels the playing field with the insurance companies’ attorneys who had no cap on their fees.

If you or someone you know is fighting to get Florida workers compensation benefits, call us and get answers to your legal questions.

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Workers compensatiion Attorney Matthew E. NoyesPersonal Injury Attorney Matthew Noyes represents those injured in Florida workers compensation claims, car accidents, motorcycle crashes, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents and other types of personal injury matters. He is a named partner at the Tampa Bay law firm of Perenich Caulfield Avril Noyes – one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Pinellas County. Call Attorney Matthew Noyes now at 727-796-8282 or complete the form on this page or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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