Trial attorneys issued a denunciation Monday of the workers’ compensation reform package now headed for a House floor vote.
HB 7085 is “a handout to the insurance industry and its big-business allies – one that does little to benefit injured workers or most employers,” the Florida Justice Association said in a written statement.
“The plan wipes out countless injured workers’ ability to afford legal help when insurance companies wrongfully deny benefits, without providing other new benefits to offset this added burden,” the organization said.
Real reform would allow workers some choice in their doctors, a “mid-level” tier for benefits, competition between insurers on rates, and “reasonable” attorney fees, said Richard Chait, chairman of the workers’ compensation section.
“The eventual outcome of the current approach will be that more injured workers will receive inadequate health care treatment to help them recover,” he said.
“Injured workers will be hard-pressed to return to work with their employer, and this will put an additional drain on government social programs. In the end, the burden for those costs will be shouldered by Florida taxpayers.”
The House bill passed it’s final committee stop Thursday. It would retain a fee schedule for attorneys who prevail in benefits challenges, but would allow them to charge insurers as much as $150 per hour on approval by a judge of compensation claims.
Insurers would be spared paying fees for claims upon which they prevail — meaning the workers would have to pick up the tab.
Senate legislation, SB 1582, is friendlier toward the trial bar.
“The (House) bill in its current form misses an opportunity to enact true, balanced, and comprehensive reform to make the system better for injured workers,” Chait added. “The only people smiling about this proposal are the corporate and insurance special interests who received a windfall at the expense of workers.”
House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee chairman Danny Burgess has defended the bill as striking a balance between the needs of injured workers, employers, and insurers.
“There’s no question that the injured worker is one piece of the heart of the balance of the grand bargain,” Burgess said in an interview last week.
Update: Later, Associated Industries of Florida released its own statement on behalf of Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of state and federal affairs for Associated Industries of Florida.
“Contrary to the trial lawyers looking out for their own self interests, Florida’s employers and employees are at the top of mind with the newly amended workers’ compensation legislation,” Bevis said.
The House bill “addresses key measures that allow for a stable, self-executing and affordable workers’ compensation system for injured workers,” he continued.
“The trial lawyers plain and simply do not like this legislation because it does not allow them to get richer on the backs of injured workers. On behalf of Florida’s business community, we look forward to seeing this legislation advance so Florida’s employees are able to get healthier at reasonable rates to Florida employers.”
John is a Jacksonville native who grew up on the First Coast. He graduated from Bishop Kenny High School in 1975 and went to college at Florida State University where he completed a 4-year program in 3 years. John graduated from the Florida State University College of Business in 1978 and went straight into Florida State University College of Law. While in law school, John earned a position on the prestigious Law Review Board serving as its Business Editor. As a law student, John studied in the Oxford program. He also interned with the Florida Legislature working in the Florida House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee. John was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1981.
John began his legal career as a law school intern in the State Attorney's Office in Jacksonville in 1981. After his internship, legendary State Attorney Ed Austin hired John as a full-time Assistant State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit (Clay, Duval, and Nassau Counties). As a prosecutor, John tried jury and non-jury trial on charges ranging from DUI to Murder.
In 1983, John moved from the State Attorney's Office to begin his career in private practice. He has practiced law for 30 years on the First Coast. For the last 20 years, John and his family have made Clay County their home.
John limits his practice to personal injury and disability cases. While there are many fine attorneys in Clay County, John is one of only a few Clay County attorneys who limit their practice to personal injury and disability cases. John takes pride in helping clients resolve injury claims in ways that avoid the stress, uncertainty, and the expense of unnecessary litigation.
John is the past President of the Clay County Bar Association and has served on the Board of the Clay County Bar Association from 2009-2013. He is an active member of the Florida Bar, and the Federal Bar of the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida. He is also a member of the American Association of Justice, the Florida Association of Justice, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives, and the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates.
Service to the Community
John is involved in the Clay County Community serving as a member and Director of the Rotary Club of Orange Park, of the Clay County Bar Association, and the Putnam County Bar Association.
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