Concerns raised by 8 On Your Side table workers’ comp bill again

Investigations

A bill that will make it more difficult for injured workers to get workers’ compensation benefits was once again yanked off the table by the lawmaker trying to get it passed.

Facing more questions and than he could answer, State Senator Keith Perry (R)-Gainesville asked that a vote on Senate Bill 1636 be temporarily postponed.

For weeks, 8 On Your Side has raised questions about whether the bill will help insurance companies or injured workers.

Our reports showed how an injured Lakeland worker is still fighting with his employer’s workers’ comp carrier, Travelers, for acceptable treatment.

Neil Eckelberger suffered severe injuries in a 2017 explosion. When he was released from Tampa General Hospital’s burn unit, Travelers sent him to a walk-in clinic for follow up care.

At a hearing in front of the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance, Richard Templin of Florida’s AFL-CIO told lawmakers this bill puts more of a burden on injured workers at a very difficult time in their lives.

“Since 2003, this system has gotten worse and worse and worse for working families and people that are injured on the job. And once again this bill does nothing to return benefits to workers, it does nothing to simplify the process, it does nothing to keep them from having to get an attorney,” Templin said.

Injured sheetmetal worker James Jones told the committee that he suffered a severe back injury last March on the job.

“I could not walk, could not stand up straight or I’d get lightheaded and fall over,” Jones explained.  

“I fought six months with the insurance carrier to get treatment to see a doctor at all. I had to get an attorney just to get treatment.”

On Friday, 8 On Your Side reported that Senator Perry owns a roofing company. Workers’ comp insurance premiums for roofers are among the highest in the state.  

Attorney Michael Winer called the legislation self serving, stating that if the bill passes, less claims will be filed, less attorneys will take cases, resulting in lower premiums and higher profits for Senator Perry.

Perry contends the legislation will benefit the worker. He warns lawyers’ fees are rising, resulting in workers seeing smaller and smaller percentages of benefits.  

Currently, insurance companies can wait 30 days to decide whether to pay for a benefit to an injured worker. Senator Perry’s bill proposes extended that to 45 business days, or 9 weeks.  

We will continue to follow this legislation.

If you know of something that should be investigated, call our 8 On Your Side Helpline at 1-800-338-0808. Contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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