Miami judge declared Florida’s long-controversial workers’ compensation law unconstitutional Wednesday, saying successive state legislatures had so diminished medical care and wage-loss benefits for injured workers that the statute now violates employees’ “fundamental” rights.
In a case involving a Miami-Dade County government office worker, Circuit Judge Jorge E. Cueto said the nearly 80-year-old law forces injured workers into a legal system that is so flawed it does not provide adequate medical care or dollars to replace lost wages. Under Florida law, workers have no choice but to seek benefits under the workers’ comp system. Except under rare circumstances, they cannot sue their employers.
“The benefits in the act have been so decimated,” Cueto wrote, “that it no longer provides a reasonable alternative” to filing suit in civil court.
Cueto’s ruling comes at a pivotal time for mostly blue-collar and agricultural workers in Florida: Lawmakers and business leaders say high workers’ compensation insurance premiums have threatened to derail the state’s economic growth, while worker advocates say the state has allowed widespread insurance fraud to fester while counteracting the high premiums by punishing workers. Story here.