Published Monday, December 17, 2007
Reforms have been successful
In 2003, the Florida Legislature overhauled the state's workers compensation system to control skyrocketing costs and the decreased availability of insurance to pay for injured workers' medical bills.
Since then, workers compensation has become more affordable for Florida businesses, resulting in significant decreases in the cost and availability of workers compensation for Florida businesses and employers.
In October, the Office of Insurance Regulation approved the fifth consecutive rate decrease of workers compensation insurance rates as a result of the Legislature's reforms, approving the National Council on Compensation Insurance's filing for an average decrease of 18.4 percent.
The reductions are estimated to result in more than $700 million in savings.
However, the savings may be short-lived if attempts to chip away at the 2003 reforms are successful.
Despite numerous rulings by the 1st District Court of Appeals upholding the constitutionality of the reforms, the Trial Bar has repeatedly filed claims challenging various aspects of the law.
The Dec. 4 article titled " 'Horizontal immunity' a hit to injured workers" exemplifies the tactics that are being used to whittle away the 2003 reforms.
It attacked a component of the law intended to prevent excessive lawsuits by injured workers.
The reforms passed by lawmakers ensure that injured workers receive adequate compensation for their injuries.
However, the reforms have also helped curb the skyrocketing cost and decreased availability of affordable workers compensation insurance by enacting measures to prevent the proliferation of lawsuits that were becoming a drain on the system.
One component of the reforms was horizontal immunity. Horizontal immunity ensures that lawsuits arising from a work-related accident do not target businesses or subcontractors also on the job site.
It raised the standard for who could be sued by an injured worker.
It eliminated the practice that was too common under the old workers compensation system where an injured employee could sue everyone and anyone, regardless of the level of responsibility, if any, for an accident.
The reforms have worked, resulting in five consecutive rate decreases.
The 2003 reforms are one of the reasons Florida has seen reductions in workers compensation insurance rates in recent years, according to a study released in July by the Workers Compensation Research Institute analyzing the impacts of the reforms.
Horizontal immunity is just one of the many reforms that have helped ensure that injured workers are duly compensated when there is an accident.
It also helps prevent the system from being unaffordable and overrun by excessive lawsuits.