One element of the workers’ compensation fix headed to the governor

workers comp

It’s not the big banana, but a small piece of workers’ compensation reform is on its way to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.

The bill is CS/CS/HB 1107, shielding personally identifying information about workers’ comp claimants under Florida’s public records laws.

It passed the House on a 120-0 vote Wednesday, having cleared the Senate, 37-0, on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the big workers’ compensation package remained on the Senate calendar, awaiting debate. The House has passed its version of that legislation.

The information at issue was shielded until 2003, when the Legislature allowed a public records exemption to lapse.

Advocates of the exemption argued it allows trial attorneys to identify possible claimants, encouraging costly claims appeals.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance has blamed litigation costs for 10 percent of the 14.5 percent workers’ compensation insurance premium increases that began to take effect in December.

“By exempting public records relating to injured or deceased workers, this relief is one way to clear the burdensome pressures in the system to get injured workers healthy at affordable rates to employers,” Tom Feeney, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida, said in a written statement following the House vote.

Michael Moline

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

One comment

  • Mark Zientz

    May 4, 2017 at 9:28 am

    If, after 14 years open information, only 6% of injured workers ever retain an attorney and if, after 14 years of attorney fee pressure only 1/2 of 1% of the premium dollar is spent on attorney fees, are fees the real problem?
    When profit is built into the insurance scheme as a given, carriers have no incentive to be efficient, have enough adjusters and accept claims that should never be denied.
    Employer fraud is at least as big a problem as attorney fees. Carriers don’t care because the cost of fraud is passed along to the policyholders. If you were an adjuster and a 13 week wage statement came in showing that a nuclear physicist was earning $8.05 per hour, wouldn’t you investigate? I can show you documents that prove the carriers accept thatkind of obvious information and then fight to keep paying benefits at a ridiculous law incorrect rate rather than sending the ivestigators to the employer and questioning the obvious. But the carriers don’t care. They will pay me a fee for getting past due benefits at the correct rate, penalties, interest, costs and attorney fees and blame those costs on the greedy lawyers but pass them along in rate increase requests. My hands are tied. I can’t report the fraud because my client will be blackballed from the industry when he finally recovers. All I can do is to show the defense attorney proof of fraud, which I did, and hope the carrier lawyer will do something. Probably not, because the defense lawyer risks losing his client if he exposes a large insured’s fraud.

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