The most-significant ruling tossed out strict limits on fees that can be paid to attorneys who represent injured workers in disputes about benefits. Regulators, largely as a result of those rulings, approved a 14.5 percent increase in workers compensation rates. Those higher rates started to gradually take effect last Thursday, though a Leon County circuit judge ruled they should be blocked because of violations of the states Sunshine Law during the ratemaking process. The issue of whether the new rates should continue is pending at the 1st District Court of Appeal. Regardless, it appears that lawmakers will try to revamp the workers compensation system during the coming months, touching off heavy lobbying by the various interest groups. Much of the lobbying will focus on the issue of attorneys fees, but Kurt Hamon, staff director of the House Commerce Committee, told lawmakers that fixing the workers compensation system likely will need to be broader than addressing the fee issue. Something to be considered when youre trying to craft solutions (is) that the solution probably should look at more than just dealing with the attorneys fees issue, Hamon said during a briefing Tuesday. It should be a broad-based solution that looks at the satisfaction within the system, the effectiveness of the system from both the employer and employee side of the issue. With bills gradually starting to be filed for the 2017 session, freshman Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, released a proposal Wednesday that includes what is known as an opt-out for businesses to decide whether to provide coverage.
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