But according to an August 15, 2014 article in Business Insurance, businesses throughout Florida may soon find themselves providing more benefits for their workers -- and presumably paying more as well. Judge Jorge E. Cuerto of Miami-Dade County's 11th Circuit Court has ruled the Florida Workers' Compensation Act unconstitutional in its current form and range of benefits.
The central issue in this case hinges on the law's provision that employees accept workers compensation as their "exclusive remedy" for recouping wages lost to a work-related injury. Padgett has contended that once she had run through all her workers' compensation benefits, she was denied any means of pursuing further compensation through the courts.
This protection from tort action is a central aspect of the Florida law as a means of trading quick, simple compensation for lengthy, expensive courtroom battles. Cuerto contends that this very exclusivity ties employees to inadequate benefits, violating their Constitutional rights in the process.
How did this sudden, dramatic pronouncement come about? The workers' compensation law currently on the books is nearly 80 years old. During its first several decades, it required business to pay all injured employees' medical bills alongside other generous benefits.
Unfortunately, it also required those businesses to pay some of the highest premiums in the nation, making it more difficult for Florida companies to thrive. According to an August 13, 2014 article in the Miami Herald, the "exclusive remedy" provision entered the law in 1968, while additional changes in the years to come reduced the extent to employee benefits. Since the last major amendment to the law in 2003, premium rates have dropped by a remarkable 56 percent. Meanwhile, workers have felt increasingly under-served by the reduced range of benefits provided. This most recent ruling, which shocked even those who agree with it, represents a long-simmering issue finally coming to a boil.
One notable example concerns the 2009 case of a firefighter who found himself unable to seek financial redress after his 104 days of temporary disability benefits under workers compensation came to an end. The more frequently these issues find their way to the Supreme Court, the more receptive the Court might become to workers' compensation reform. If that happens, premiums will be on the rise once again.
William Reynolds has worked as a freelance copywriter since 1997. William has written on a wide range of subjects, including commercial and personal insurance.
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