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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Divided Senate approves House workers' comp bill

Trial lawyers just lost and businesses won, when a divided Senate agreed 22-16 to the House proposal dealing with workers’ compensation rates.

HB 903, crafted in response to a 2008 Florida Supreme Court ruling, maintains the attorney fee caps and ban on hourly rates that have been in place since 2003. Lawmakers established the 2003 cap because Florida at the time had the highest workers’ compensation insurance rates in the nation, and the rates have gone down since then. The Florida Supreme Court in October rules against the caps.

Senators opposed to the House version warned Friday that it does nothing to address the Florida high court’s concerns, and is likely to be ruled unconstitutional.

“If the House version passes, there’s a good chance the whole system may crash,” said Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton. “And if it is ruled unconstitutional, we will be back here again dealing with this.”

They also argued the caps make attorneys reluctant to represent workers because the attorneys cannot get fair rates for the work they do.

“The difference between the House version and the Senate version is, one is humane and one is inhumane,” said Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach. “The House seeks to diminish workers’ compensation rates by preventing workers from getting any kind of advocacy.”

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 6:58pm]

    

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