Work comp law is changing again in Florida, but it isn’t as drastic as the business community would want you to think.
Yesterday, the Florida Supreme Court found another portion of the work comp law in Florida unconstitutional. In Westphal vs. City of St. Petersburg, the Supreme Court said the workers’ comp law that limited temporary total disability benefits to 104 weeks or two years created a gap in coverage for certain severely injured workers. The court reinstated an earlier eligibility time period of 260 weeks or five years for those workers.
This does not mean that every injured worker is going to get five years worth of indemnity (wage) benefits! Before this case has any impact of a workers’ compensation claim, the injured worker has to have a doctor testify within a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the injured worker is unable to work for more than two years. Remember, these doctors are selected by the workers’ compensation insurance company. It simply doesn’t happen that often. And when it does, the injured worker is significantly hurt. Shouldn’t they be entitled to wage benefits if their inability to work was because of a work comp injury?
According to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, Justice R. Fred Lewis, who wrote a concurring opinion, agreed that the section of the law is unconstitutional but added that the longer time limit “fails to address the problems” of the workers’ comp law. “It still will leave some injured Florida workers without access to benefits to which they are entitled,” he said, adding that the system needed legislative reform. “I have a full appreciation for the judicial attempts to save the workers’ compensation statute from total disaster. Florida needs a valid workers’ compensation program, but the charade is over. Enough is enough, and Florida workers deserve better.”
The insurance companies are already crying out that this decision will increase premiums to businesses. Be careful when you hear this rhetoric. Remember, they are in the business of making a profit—and that they do. Also, remember, that this ruling will have no impact on the vast majority of workers’ compensation claims that don’t result in injuries that keep injured workers out of work for over two years.
Personal Injury Attorney Matthew Noyes represents those fighting for Florida workers compensation benefits as well as those injured in 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. There are never attorneys fees or cost unless we win.