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Battle to Help Injured Florida Workers Heats Up
Date:3/26/2008

Florida Supreme Court to Review Case of Emma Murray v. Mariner Health Care

April 9, 2008

MIAMI, March 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It's known as Senate Bill 50A. For most Floridians that doesn't mean much of anything. However, for those Floridians who have been hurt on the job, Senate Bill 50A is something they have to endure.

The Bill went into effect in 2003, and since then, it has essentially given insurance companies carte blanche to destroy the lives of injured workers, heavily curtailing their benefits. They're left struggling to find legal representation because the Bill severely restricts claimant's attorney's fees while providing no cap on the insurance carrier's attorney's fees.

"Our Florida legislature passed a bill which is clearly unjust because it hands over the keys of the Workers' Compensation system to insurance companies at the expense of the injured worker," said Juan C. Parets, Florida Workers' Advocate President.

To date, five cases have been brought before the First District Court of Appeal and the Florida Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 50A. These were all dismissed until October 29, 2007 when the Supreme Court granted jurisdiction to review the case of Emma Murray v Mariner Health Care. Oral arguments for this case are scheduled for April 9, 2008 in the Florida Supreme Court in Tallahassee, 500 South Duval Street, Tallahassee, Florida.

On October 31, 2003, Emma Murray was injured on the job and her employer's insurance carrier contested her claim for workers' compensation, alleging a pre-existing condition. A Judges of Compensation Claims (JCC) hearing found in Murray's favor and awarded her $3,244.21 for lost time, medical expenses, interest and penalties.

Murray's attorney, Brian Sutter of Port Charlotte, was awarded only $648.84 for 84.4 hours of work, or $8.11 per hour. The judge called it "manifestly unfair" but had no choice in the matter.

Prior to Senate Bill 50A, workers' compensation attorneys could ask to be awarded hourly fees assessed against the insurance company. Now, Florida lawyers are limited to small percentage fees.

"In order for Senate Bill 50A to be ruled unconstitutional, it is critical that Floridians realize this restrictive legislation has consequences for every worker in Florida," said Parets.

Take the case of Legna Ramos. While she was working, a machine crushed her hands. They had to be amputated, leaving her only with a thumb on each hand. During her ordeal, Ramos' insurance company denied her attendant care for 17 months. Presently, the insurance company will not pay for reconstructive surgery, claiming it would be "cosmetic" surgery. Ramos' condition has left her without the ability to accomplish everyday tasks that most of us take for granted.

"I can't dress myself, I can't cook, I can't play with my kids or brush my daughter's hair," said Ramos as she fights back the tears.

"There are countless cases in Florida like that of Legna Ramos," said Parets. "Until Floridians come forward, take a stand and fight for their rights, there will be countless more people like Legna Ramos in the future. We cannot allow this injustice to continue."

There is something that Floridians can do to get more informed about the 2003 Workers' Compensation Act. Go to http://www.floridaworkers.org and watch "CRISIS, The State of Workers' Compensation in Florida" directly from the website. You may also request the free CRISIS DVD by calling (850) 562-9675.

Florida Workers' Advocates (FWA) is an organization of civil justice attorneys representing injured workers in Florida. Our member attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of injured workers. FWA serves as the primary advocate on a range of issues affecting injured workers and their families.

Go to http://www.floridaworkers.org for more information.

Florida Workers' Advocates, 223 South Gadsden St.

Tallahassee, Florida 32301 (850) 562-9675


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SOURCE Florida Workers' Advocates
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
All rights reserved

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