I was talking to a friend of mine who is from Illinois, but has established a really good workers’ compensation practice in Florida. He misses Chicago, but enjoys the warmth. Can’t blame him for that.
He was telling me about some of their cases. In almost every case he takes on, due to Florida law, the injured worker can not get a settlement unless they are willing to resign their job. Think about that for a minute. You are at work and a machine malfunctions causing you a serious injury that will impact you for the rest of your life. You’ve put in 20 good years with this company and would like to keep working there. In order to get a settlement at the end of your case you have to quit this job you love. That is not right.
He also shared that there are a ton of employers in Florida who do not carry workers’ compensation insurance. In Illinois that is a felony and aside from jail time, there are other major penalties that can go along with that including having your business shut down. There is a protection for injured workers who are harmed by this as well.
In the Sunshine State, however, if a business gets caught without insurance they get a small fine, say they are sorry and go on with their lives. In the meantime, the worker gets screwed.
It all sounds like an awful environment for workers’ rights. These types of laws get proposed all of the time by people like Governor Rauner and if they had their way you’d lose your rights and more. It’s not unique to Florida either. Finding a work comp attorney in Indiana is almost impossible. In Kansas there is a cap on total payments including medical costs. In many states you can’t choose your own doctor so you are stuck with a physician who is looking out for the insurance company (or else they lose business) instead of you.
So while I’d personally choose sun over snow if all things are equal, I’d much rather be in a State that respects and protects its workers. Our laws are still very fair to businesses and there have been numerous reforms to lower insurance costs no matter what you read or hear. If changes like this happened in Illinois it would be a death blow for worker’s rights.