Thursday, July 21, 2016

Court Finds Florida Workers Compensation Lawyer Payment Structure Unconstitutional

In the past, anyone who had a Florida Workers Compensation case would likely find it very challenging to obtain legal representation unless they had the means to pay attorney’s fees. If a person is injured, and can’t work, their ability to pay would likely be diminished.  Recently, however, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a person involved in a worker’s compensation claim will no longer be responsible for paying legal fees.
Florida Labor Law specifies that a worker’s compensation lawyer is only awarded a percentage of any compensation claim. As an example an attorney who represented a man who was injured on the job, was awarded a pittance of just over $164.00 for over 100 hours of work. It is simple math to determine that is $1.64 per hour, or approximately one fifth of Florida’s current minimum wage. The Supreme Court ruled that this fee structure was unconstitutional, as it hindered an injured worker’s ability to get legal representation.
A City of Englewood police officer, Martha Miles, was injured on the job by accidentally inhaling methamphetamine fumes. The exposure to the fumes rendered her unable to work because of the aggravation of her asthma. She filed a worker’s compensation claim but was unable to find an attorney to represent her for the fees allowed under the worker’s compensation statute. Miles was forced to represent herself at trial.
At the trial Miles presented several affidavits from attorneys who indicated that they would not represent her in a worker’s compensation case under the constraints of the fee structure. She was also unable to prove her case before the Court of Compensation Claims according to her attorney Michael Weiner.
Miles challenged the constitutionality of sections 440.105 and 440.34 of Florida Statutes which limit attorney fees. In the case filed in the First District Court of Appeal of Florida, case number 1D15-165, she argued that the provisions of the statute infringe on her First Amendment rights protected under the United States Constitution.
It was determined that the law violated workers guarantee of freedom of speech and associations by the Appeals Court. In addition, it blocks workers from retaining legal counsel.
This decision was not favored by the insurance industry as it was speculated that it could lead to higher claims costs, a rate increase and additional litigation. To injured workers, however, it offers the peace of mind knowing that their worker’s compensation claims will not be denied due to the fact that they were unable to afford an experienced labor attorney.  
Workers compensation is in place to ensure that anyone injured while performing their job, will receive money to live on until the time they are able to return to work. Difficulties arise with injured workers claims due to the fact that private insurance companies are responsible for paying the claims. The insurers have claims adjusters and lawyers whose motivation is to save money for the insurance company. These are professionals who are highly skilled and experienced. Without a worker’s compensation attorney, the average person is greatly out gunned in the battle for the compensation that they really deserve.
Dolman Law Group
Dolman Law Group has successfully represented countless Florida residents with their worker’s compensation claims. If you were injured on the job, speak with a skilled worker’s compensation attorney at Dolman Law Group. Call today at 727-451-6900. It will cost you nothing for a confidential evaluation of your claim. 
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765