The Legal Domino Effect

For anyone who still doubts that events are dominoes that lead to bigger and greater consequences, listen to the story of Elsa Padgett. She was an account clerk who was just minding her own business, when one day, a stack of boxes left on a walkway caused her to trip. She fell on her hip, but she sustained significant injuries to her shoulder.

lawMs. Padgett underwent shoulder replacement surgery, but the pain she suffered long after the operation forced her into retirement. The situation wouldn’t have been so bad if she was able to enjoy the compensation of suffering an injury at work, but that’s not the case.

The Florida Workers Compensation Law controversy began in 1968, when lawmakers amended the State constitution to make the comp law the only legal remedy for work related injuries. Back then, the law was much more generous. It required employers to pay all of the medical bills, and significant benefits to people who lost their ability to make a living.

Over time, the State legislature chipped away at the benefits that the law provided to make the comp law a shadow of its former self. Lawmakers argued that the reductions were necessary to make the State more competitive in retaining businesses.

They proved their point in both 1993 and 2003, when industries complained that Florida had the highest worker’s compensation insurance premium charges in the country. Since the 2003 revisions, state records showed that state premiums dropped by fifty-six percent. This means that people like Ms. Padgett were left at a major disadvantage.

Her case reached Circuit Court Judge Jorge E. Cueto, who ruled in her favour and said that the law forces workers ina legal system that provides no adequate medical care or dollars to replace lost wages. The ruling comes at a time when industry veterans such as The Ticktin Law Group note that the simmering controversy is nearing a breaking point.

Lawmakers and business leaders say that high compensation insurance premium threaten to upset the state’s growth. Worker advocate groups, however, insist that the state allows insurance fraud to fester while punishing workers for their injuries.

The immediate effects of Ms. Padgett’s case and Judge Cueto’s ruling won’t extend beyond the Miami Dade County. As word of the ruling spreads, however, more people will begin appealing their own cases, and campaign to change a law that’s stood for the last 80 years.