On Thursday, April 28, 2016, the Florida Supreme Court issued an opinion that serves as a benefit to those suffering from a job injury. When you’re injured on the job, the probability of a work comp carrier denying the benefits you’re entitled to is disproportionately high. A denial of benefits is not an absolute 100% certainty, but close. Such denials may not occur right away. They usually happen a few months into the claim. However, we’ve seen work comp claims denied from day one. The Florida Supreme Court’s opinion makes it possible for an attorney to be fairly compensated through payment by a work comp insurance company. Your attorney is entitled to be paid by a work comp insurance company for work done in furtherance of you receiving benefits you’re entitled to. In addition to the opinion referenced above, the Florida Supreme Court has taken discretionary review of a worker’s compensation case challenging an injured worker’s entitlement to medical and indemnity (lost wage) benefits. This case is based on a question of whether the laws currently in effect are constitutional. Given the court’s opinion in favor of injured workers issued on Thursday, April 28, 2016 in Marvin Castellanos v. Next Door Company, et. al., SC13-2082, the court’s opinion in the case involving medical and lost wage benefits is likely to be favorable. Our firm handles cases in multiples areas of law. We remain informed of any and all law changes involved in any such areas. Consultations with our office are free and easily accomplished by contacting us at (727) 853-6275.
To understand the significance of the opinion entered in Castellanos, we’ll provide a quick history of work comp law. On October 1, 2003, the Florida Legislature passed numerous laws greatly limiting your entitlement to workers compensation benefits. Furthermore, the laws limited the amount of a fee your attorney was entitled to receive for obtaining benefits on your behalf. When your attorney obtains benefits on your behalf, the work comp carrier is responsible for payment of your attorney’s fee and costs expended in furtherance of obtaining such benefits; not you. In support of establishing how unjust such previous attorney fee laws were, the legislature DID NOT limit the amount of attorney fees payable to attorneys representing work comp carriers. Further discussion explaining how entitlement to fees was handled is contained in the last paragraph.
When a work comp carrier denies a benefit you’re entitled to, we take immediate action. We file pleadings and engage in work for the purpose of compelling the work comp carrier to provide that benefit to you. We understand that not all firms handling work comp claims are as aggressive; nor do they follow the same approach. The reason we work as hard as we do is because we know how difficult work comp carriers tend to be. One of the principles of our practice perspective is to prevent an insurance company from taking advantage of our clients in any way, shape, or form.
We can’t control when an insurance company will make handling your case difficult. We can control our response to such conduct. Believing that the best defense is a strong offense, our response is not passive. Our approach is to file a claim on your behalf as soon as you make us aware of any issue concerning your benefits. We do not delay through negotiating with the adjuster or defense attorney about providing a benefit you’re entitled to. If the benefit is provided, then we’ll withdraw the claim. Otherwise, it remains pending. We do not delay in filing a claim on your behalf for the purpose of waiting, “to see if the benefit will be provided.” That’s pathetic. Immediate action is taken for the purposes of attempting to make the process of dealing with the work comp carrier go as easily as possible. Experience in handling work comp claims had made us all too familiar with the hardships caused by work comp carriers. If have questions about what we can do for you, contact us.
If successful in obtaining benefits on your behalf, the work comp carrier owes us fees and costs. As explained, when we obtain benefits on your behalf, our fees and costs are not your responsibility to pay. To help correct a common misconception – our attorney fees and costs are not deducted from the amount of benefits the work comp carrier is obligated to pay you. Payment of our fees and costs becomes an issue we work to resolve with the work comp carrier. The only time attorney’s fees and costs are deducted from an amount you receive is when the settlement of a work comp claim occurs. Settlement of a work comp claim is entirely separate issue we’ve addressed in our previous articles available on our website.
Impact of Prior Law:
By limiting the amount your attorney was entitled to receive, injured workers faced a challenge in being able to find competent attorneys willing to handle their work comp claim. Moreover, work comp carriers denied benefits with impunity and no regard for the repercussion to you. The Florida Supreme Court found the law regarding entitled to carrier paid attorney’s fees to be unconstitutional. Denying reasonable fees to your attorney is the equivalent of denying your constitutional right to due process and access to courts.
Why the prior law was unconstitutional:
For example, let’s say you are denied a benefit worth $1,000.00. The benefit could be $1,000.00 worth of lost wages, medical care worth $1,000.00, a medical bill worth a $1,000.00 – it doesn’t matter what the specific benefit is. Under the law previously in effect that was rightly and justifiably determined unconstitutional, your attorney would be limited to payment from the work comp carrier of a fee totaling $200.00. The time it took your attorney to obtain that benefit was irrelevant. What if it took your attorney 20 hours to obtain that benefit? $200 for 20 hours of work would result in an hourly rate of $10.00 for your attorney. If a work comp carrier wants to vigorously deny authorization for a benefit you’re entitled to, your attorney is forced into a manifestly unfair and impossible position. No law firm can afford to keep their doors open when the hourly rate paid for handling a work comp case is $10.00. Like any business, law firms have overhead. The jobs of the people who work within a law firm depend on the revenue generated from the handling of cases on client’s behalf. It took years for the Castellano case o be decided by The Florida Supreme Court. The Dolman Law Group considers the opinion a definite step in the right direction. Contact us for a free consultation (727) 853-6275 or visit us at www.dolmanlaw.com.
Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652