Workers’ compensation panel counsel attorneys, workers’ comp insurance carriers and employers are closely following several precedent-setting court rulings across the country. Several notable news items from recent months are outlined below.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court on April 12 struck down a provision of the state’s 2013 workers’ compensation reform effort. The Court ruled that the permanent partial disability deferral provision of 85A O.S. Supp. 2013 § 45(C)(5) is an unconstitutional violation of due process. Click on the link to read the ruling in the case 2016 OK 41, 369 P.3d 1079, 04/12/2016, Maxwell v. Sprint PCS.
In the case Castellanos v. Next Door Company, et al. (No. SC13-2082), the Florida Supreme Court was asked to evaluate the constitutionality of the mandatory fee schedule in section 440.34, Florida Statutes (2009), which eliminates the requirement of a reasonable attorney’s fee to the successful claimant. The Court concluded on April 28 that “the mandatory fee schedule in section 440.34, which creates an irrebuttable presumption that precludes any consideration of whether the fee award is reasonable to compensate the attorney, is unconstitutional under both the Florida and United States Constitutions as a violation of due process.
Also in Florida, in the case Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital, 160 So. 3d 519 (Fla. 1st DCA 2015) the Florida Supreme Court was asked if the elimination of a type of partial disability benefits by lawmakers was legal. In an unexpected ruling, the Court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction.
The New Mexico Supreme Court recently ruled that a nearly 100-year-old provision in state law that allows agricultural employers to opt out of the workers’ compensation system is unconstitutional, according to a June 30 article in the Albuquerque Journal. The case is Rodriquez v. Brand West Dairy and New Mexico Uninsured Employers’ Fund, No. S-1-SC-35426.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rate Changes
Rate cases are also generating headlines, with a wide range of price changes for workers’ comp coverage across the country.
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones adopted and issued a May 31 revised advisory pure premium rate, lowering the benchmark to $2.30 per $100 of payroll for workers’ compensation insurance, effective July 1, 2016. This is a 10.5 percent reduction, when compared to the average insurer-filed pure premium rate.
Florida employers are not quite so fortunate. The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) filed a 17.1 percent rate increase with the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) for all new, renewal and additional policies in effect on a “pro-rata” basis, according to Insurance Journal. This recommendation results in large part from the Florida court rulings described above.
Workers’ Comp Insurers Reprimanded in California
California Insurance Company, a Berkshire Hathaway company and the seventh largest workers’ compensation insurer in California by premium volume, was cited on June 20 by California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones for allegedly filing one set of rates and insurance policies with the Department of Insurance, which it then sold to client Shasta Linen. Jones charges that the insurer then had Applied Underwriters, another Berkshire Hathaway company, sell Shasta Linen a second insurance policy with different rates and terms that had never been submitted to the department for review as the law requires. The second policy reportedly contained expensive cancellation and non-renewal penalties. The case is In the Matter of the Appeal of Shasta Linen Supply Inc., From the Decision of California Insurance Company, File AHB-WCA-14-31.
Business Development Ideas for Workers’ Compensation Panel Counsel Members
Law firms that are already on workers’ comp panels, or are trying to get on more workers’ comp panel counsel programs, can use the news items referenced above as ideas for writing articles, publishing a newsletter, offering a continuing education seminar, posting a social media update, or creating a blog post.
Whatever choice of client communication you select, education-based marketing can be a very effective way to attract new clients and retain existing accounts.
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Note: Please refer to actual court rulings for a full and accurate description of each case. This article is provided for informational purposes only.