Marc A. Perper, a partner and Chicago workers’ compensation attorney at Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates, was asked to explain the difference between the statutory fee structure in Illinois and the statutory fee structure in Florida following a Florida Supreme Court decision.
The Florida Supreme Court recently declared that the statutory caps on claimants’ attorney fees in the Florida workers’ compensation system are unconstitutional and a violation of an injured worker’s due process rights.
The Florida workers’ compensation statute allows for an attorneys’ fee equal to 20% of the first $5,000 in benefits secured for a client, 15% of the next $5,000 and 10% of any amount secured in excess of $10,000 with no room for exceptions.
In its decision for Castellanos v. Next Door Co., the Florida Supreme Court ruled that this structure creates a disincentive for claimants’ attorneys to take on “low-value complex” cases.
According to Marc Perper, there is a major distinction between the Illinois and Florida acts. In Illinois, workers’ compensation attorneys get 20% of the settlement or award and this total is not to exceed the 364-week cap. However, when a full 20% fee exceeds the 364-week cap, attorneys can petition the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission for a fee in excess of the 364-week cap. As long as the client agrees to the fee, there is usually no problem in getting the commission to approve it.
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