According to some reports, Florida workers’ compensation attorneys are seeing a steady yearly increase in the value of benefits recovered for their clients. The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) published its finding to that effect in a recent study entitled CompScope Benchmarks for Florida, 12th Edition.
The study suggests that average benefits received per claimant rose an average of three percent per year from 2005 to 2009. The recent growth follows a dramatic drop of more than 20 percent in the average benefits paid in 2003, when the Florida legislature passed a series of broad and sweeping workers’ compensation reforms.
The research effort primarily measured indemnity costs paid by insurers. There are three main reasons, says the study, that insurers’ indemnity payments saw an average increase. First, average wages saw moderate growth. The worker’s wage is a primary determining factor in the “value” of the worker’s indemnity benefit entitlement because the more the worker earns, the greater the harm inflicted upon the worker if he or she is rendered unable to work due to an injury. The second major factor in indemnity value growth was an increase in the frequency with which insurers elected to settle claims with lump-sum payouts. The third and final factor, the study concluded, was an overall average increase in the value of the lump-sum payouts offered by insurers.
The study also produced evidence that tends to show that workers’ compensation insurance companies are showing more respect for Florida workers’ compensation lawyers. The evidence shows that over the same period – 2005 to 2009 – each year saw a one to two percentage point increase over the previous year in the number of cases in which a defense attorney was appointed to oppose the claim.
The Bad News for Injured Workers
Along with the steady increases in indemnity payments and lump-sum settlement offers to workers’ compensation claimants, the average medical costs for Florida workers’ compensation cases has also steadily increased. In 2005 and 2006, the Florida legislature passed several fee schedule changes for doctors who treat workers’ compensation claimants. The types of doctors who saw the greatest allowable jump in their medical fees were chiropractors and physical/occupational therapists, who are often the most-consulted physicians for workers’ compensation injuries.
What this means for injured workers is that although their average indemnity benefits have steadily increased, so have their costs of receiving medical treatment. These costs are often unavoidable for the workers’ compensation claimant because it is precisely the nature and duration of the medical treatment he or she receives that tends to determine the amount of workers’ compensation benefits he or she receives.
Contact a Florida Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Workers’ compensation in Florida is an ever-changing segment of the law. Those injured at work in Florida, according to the study, are more likely to face an insurance company with a skilled defense attorney at its side. With the services of a skilled Florida workers’ compensation attorney, you are much more likely to recover indemnity awards reflecting the steady increase in value in the past few years.