Florida disability ruling could raise workers comp costs: NCCI

Apr 8, 2013

The following article was published in Business Insurance on April 8, 2013:

Florida disability ruling could raise workers comp costs:  NCCI

By Sheena Harrison


A Florida appellate court decision that struck down a state time limit on temporary total disability benefits could raise the state’s workers compensation costs by $65 million, according to an estimate from NCCI Holdings Inc.

In Bradley Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg et al., Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals ruled that a 104-week limit on TTD benefits was unconstitutional and left injured workers without recourse if their benefits ran out before they’re granted permanent total disability benefits. The case involved a permanently disabled firefighter who received no disability payments for nine months after his TTD benefits ran out.

The court granted Mr. Westphal 260 weeks of TTD benefits based on Florida’s TTD time limit that was in effect before the 104-week limit was enacted in 1994.

Report findings

In a report issued Thursday, Boca Raton, Fla.-based NCCI estimated that the ruling would cause a 70% increase in the average duration of TTD claims that last at least 98 weeks. That increase would raise Florida comp system costs by $30 million, the ratings and research organization estimated.

NCCI also said the extension of temporary benefits could delay the determination of a claimant’s permanent disability and increase the average worker healing period by 70%, adding $25 million in system costs.

Claimants also could attempt to delay reaching maximum medical improvement status in order to receive more weeks of TTD benefits, NCCI said. That could potentially increase system costs by $10 million, the agency said.

Hearing requested

The Florida appellate court that issued the Westphal ruling agreed last week to hold an en banc rehearing of the case, court records show.

Several insurance industry and employer groups requested the rehearing, including the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, the American Insurance Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, Publix Super Markets Inc., the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida and United Parcel Service Inc.

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