When attorneys score a bigger take from a claim than injured workers, something is amiss in the state’s workers’ compensation system, Florida Chamber of Commerce leaders said following the recent government-sanctioned 14.5 percent rate increase in the workers’ compensation rate.
The rate increase, authorized by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, comes after rulings in two state Supreme Court cases in which portions of the state’s system were deemed unconstitutional.
Florida Chamber CEO Mark Wilson testified in August that the increase will adversely affect the Sunshine State’s business atmosphere and said the ruling benefits plaintiff trial lawyers in lieu of addressing worker safety.
“It will likely impact Florida’s 61 consecutive months of job growth,” Wilson said. “And perhaps most disturbing, is that this will be a self-inflicted wound that advantages trial lawyers instead of workers.”
The rate hike translates to immediate repercussions for many small businesses. Chamber member Debbie Harvey, who heads the Ron Jon Surf Shop, indicated that the 14.5 percent increase will prevent the well-known store from hiring any mid-level staffers in 2017.
The Florida Chamber’s Workers’ Compensation Task Force is attempting to dialog with state leaders to reach a fair solution. The task force is co-chaired by Harvey and Steve Knopik, CEO of Bealls Inc., who led a discussion on workers’ comp at the chamber’s Future of Florida Forum in Orlando last month.
The Florida chamber spearheaded efforts to lower rates by nearly 60 percent in the last 13 years.
“This isn’t an outlier story,” Wilson said. “Unfortunately, this is the impact an increase of this magnitude could have on businesses – making them choose between hiring new employees or paying higher workers’ comp premiums.”