Florida Senate - 2019                                    SB 1636
       By Senator Perry
       8-01654-19                                            20191636__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to workers’ compensation; amending s.
    3         440.02, F.S.; redefining the term “specificity”;
    4         amending s. 440.093, F.S.; conforming a provision to
    5         changes made by the act; amending s. 440.105, F.S.;
    6         revising a prohibition against persons receiving
    7         certain fees, consideration, or gratuities under the
    8         Workers’ Compensation Law; amending s. 440.11, F.S.;
    9         deleting an exception from fellow-employee immunities
   10         from liability; amending s. 440.15, F.S.; increasing
   11         the maximum number of weeks of benefits payable for
   12         temporary total disability, temporary partial
   13         disability, and temporary total disability; revising
   14         the timeframe under which a carrier must provide
   15         certain notice to an employee’s treating doctor;
   16         specifying permanent impairment benefits payable to
   17         certain employees who have not reached overall maximum
   18         medical improvement within a certain timeframe;
   19         requiring that such impairment benefits be credited
   20         against subsequently due indemnity benefits; deleting
   21         a requirement that temporary disability benefits cease
   22         and that the injured worker’s permanent impairment be
   23         determined after a certain timeframe; creating s.
   24         440.1915, F.S.; requiring injured employees and other
   25         claimants to sign and attest to a specified statement
   26         relating to the payment of attorney fees before
   27         engaging an attorney or other representative for
   28         certain purposes; prohibiting such injured employees
   29         or claimants from proceeding with a petition for
   30         benefits, except pro se, until the signature is
   31         obtained; amending s. 440.192, F.S.; revising
   32         conditions under which a petition for benefits or
   33         portion of the petition must be dismissed by the
   34         Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims or the
   35         assigned judge of compensation claims; revising the
   36         information required in the petition; providing
   37         construction; requiring claimants and their attorneys
   38         to make a good faith effort to resolve the dispute
   39         before filing a petition; requiring that petitions
   40         include evidence demonstrating such good faith effort;
   41         authorizing judges of compensation claims to determine
   42         if such effort was made; requiring the judge of
   43         compensation claims to dismiss the petition, and
   44         authorizing the imposition of sanctions, if he or she
   45         finds such effort was not made; providing that certain
   46         dismissals are without prejudice; specifying
   47         timeframes within which a judge of compensation claims
   48         must enter an order on certain motions to dismiss;
   49         revising conditions under which judges of compensation
   50         claims are prohibited from awarding attorney fees;
   51         amending s. 440.20, F.S.; providing that certain
   52         settlement agreements need not be approved by the
   53         judge of compensation claims; revising the information
   54         required to be submitted by the parties to such a
   55         settlement; revising the timeframe under which a lump
   56         sum settlement amount must be paid; amending s.
   57         440.25, F.S.; requiring that the pretrial outline
   58         under a certain expedited dispute resolution process
   59         contain a specified personal attestation by the
   60         claimant’s attorney relating to hours to date;
   61         revising the timeframe and conditions under which
   62         attorney fees attach to certain proceedings; amending
   63         s. 440.34, F.S.; authorizing judges of compensation
   64         claims to award attorney fees to claimants to be paid
   65         by the employer or carrier; specifying applicability
   66         of attorney fee provisions to attorney fees payable by
   67         employers or carriers; providing that employers and
   68         carriers are not responsible for costs unless approved
   69         by the judge of compensation claims or a court having
   70         jurisdiction; deleting a prohibition against a judge
   71         of compensation claims’ approval of agreements
   72         providing for attorney fees in excess of certain
   73         amounts; requiring that retainer agreements be filed
   74         with the office; specifying requirements for attorneys
   75         of injured employees in reporting attorney fees;
   76         revising attorney fees that are a lien upon payable
   77         compensation; deleting a certain limitation on
   78         retainer agreements; specifying claimant attorney
   79         hours for which attorney fees are not payable by
   80         employers or carriers; revising circumstances under
   81         which claimants are entitled to recover attorney fees
   82         from carriers or employers; revising the timeframe and
   83         conditions under which attorney fees attach;
   84         specifying a limit on the hourly rates of attorney
   85         fees awarded to injured employees or dependents;
   86         specifying a condition before such attorney fees may
   87         be awarded; deleting a prohibition against a judge of
   88         compensation claims entering an order approving
   89         certain retainer agreements; revising circumstances
   90         under which a judge of compensation claims may award
   91         alternative attorney fees payable by the carrier or
   92         employer; providing construction; amending s. 440.491,
   93         F.S.; providing that an employee who refuses certain
   94         training and education forfeits any additional
   95         compensation, rather than payment for lost wages;
   96         conforming a provision to changes made by the act;
   97         providing an effective date.
   99  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
  101         Section 1. Subsection (40) of section 440.02, Florida
  102  Statutes, is amended to read:
  103         440.02 Definitions.—When used in this chapter, unless the
  104  context clearly requires otherwise, the following terms shall
  105  have the following meanings:
  106         (40) “Specificity,” “specific,” or “specifically”
  107  “Specificity” means, for purposes of determining the adequacy of
  108  a petition for benefits under s. 440.192, information on the
  109  petition for benefits sufficient to put the employer or carrier
  110  on notice of the exact statutory classification and outstanding
  111  time period for each requested benefit, the specific amount of
  112  each requested benefit, the calculation used for computing the
  113  specific amount of each requested benefit, and of benefits being
  114  requested and includes a detailed explanation of any such
  115  benefit benefits received that should be increased, decreased,
  116  changed, or otherwise modified. If the petition is for medical
  117  benefits, the information must shall include specific details as
  118  to why such benefits are being requested, including details
  119  demonstrating that such benefits have specifically been denied
  120  by the adjuster responsible for determining whether benefits are
  121  payable to the claimant; why such benefits are medically
  122  necessary;, and why current treatment, if any, is not
  123  sufficient. Any petition requesting alternate or other medical
  124  care, including, but not limited to, petitions requesting
  125  psychiatric or psychological treatment, must specifically
  126  identify the physician, as defined in s. 440.13(1), who is
  127  recommending such treatment. A copy of a report from such
  128  physician making the recommendation for alternate or other
  129  medical care must shall also be attached to the petition and
  130  must include specific allegations and statements of fact
  131  supporting the specific denial by the adjuster handling payment
  132  of benefits to the injured employee. A judge of compensation
  133  claims may shall not order such treatment if a physician is not
  134  recommending such treatment.
  135         Section 2. Subsection (3) of section 440.093, Florida
  136  Statutes, is amended to read:
  137         440.093 Mental and nervous injuries.—
  138         (3) Subject to the payment of permanent benefits under s.
  139  440.15, in no event shall temporary benefits for a compensable
  140  mental or nervous injury be paid for more than 6 months after
  141  the date of maximum medical improvement for the injured
  142  employee’s physical injury or injuries, which shall be included
  143  in the maximum number of period of 104 weeks as provided in s.
  144  440.15(2), and (4), and (13). Mental or nervous injuries are
  145  compensable only in accordance with the terms of this section.
  146         Section 3. Paragraph (c) of subsection (3) of section
  147  440.105, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
  148         440.105 Prohibited activities; reports; penalties;
  149  limitations.—
  150         (3) Whoever violates any provision of this subsection
  151  commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as
  152  provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
  153         (c) Except for an attorney retained by an injured employee
  154  and receiving a fee or other consideration from the injured
  155  employee under contract with the injured employee, it is
  156  unlawful for any attorney or other person, in his or her
  157  individual capacity or in his or her capacity as a public or
  158  private employee, or for any firm, corporation, partnership, or
  159  association to receive any fee or other consideration or any
  160  gratuity from a person on account of services rendered for a
  161  person in connection with any proceedings arising under this
  162  chapter, unless such fee, consideration, or gratuity is approved
  163  by a judge of compensation claims or by the Deputy Chief Judge
  164  of Compensation Claims.
  165         Section 4. Subsection (1) of section 440.11, Florida
  166  Statutes, is amended to read:
  167         440.11 Exclusiveness of liability.—
  168         (1) The liability of an employer prescribed in s. 440.10
  169  shall be exclusive and in place of all other liability,
  170  including vicarious liability, of such employer to any third
  171  party tortfeasor and to the employee, the legal representative
  172  thereof, husband or wife, parents, dependents, next of kin, and
  173  anyone otherwise entitled to recover damages from such employer
  174  at law or in admiralty on account of such injury or death,
  175  except as follows:
  176         (a) If an employer fails to secure payment of compensation
  177  as required by this chapter, an injured employee, or the legal
  178  representative thereof in case death results from the injury,
  179  may elect to claim compensation under this chapter or to
  180  maintain an action at law or in admiralty for damages on account
  181  of such injury or death. In such action the defendant may not
  182  plead as a defense that the injury was caused by negligence of a
  183  fellow employee, that the employee assumed the risk of the
  184  employment, or that the injury was due to the comparative
  185  negligence of the employee.
  186         (b) When an employer commits an intentional tort that
  187  causes the injury or death of the employee. For purposes of this
  188  paragraph, an employer’s actions are shall be deemed to
  189  constitute an intentional tort and not an accident only when the
  190  employee proves, by clear and convincing evidence, that:
  191         1. The employer deliberately intended to injure the
  192  employee; or
  193         2. The employer engaged in conduct that the employer knew,
  194  based on prior similar accidents or on explicit warnings
  195  specifically identifying a known danger, was virtually certain
  196  to result in injury or death to the employee, and the employee
  197  was not aware of the risk because the danger was not apparent
  198  and the employer deliberately concealed or misrepresented the
  199  danger so as to prevent the employee from exercising informed
  200  judgment about whether to perform the work.
  202  The same immunities from liability enjoyed by an employer shall
  203  extend as well to each employee of the employer when such
  204  employee is acting in furtherance of the employer’s business and
  205  the injured employee is entitled to receive benefits under this
  206  chapter. Such fellow-employee immunities do not apply shall not
  207  be applicable to an employee who acts, with respect to a fellow
  208  employee, with willful and wanton disregard or unprovoked
  209  physical aggression or with gross negligence when such acts
  210  result in injury or death or such acts proximately cause such
  211  injury or death, nor shall such immunities be applicable to
  212  employees of the same employer when each is operating in the
  213  furtherance of the employer’s business but they are assigned
  214  primarily to unrelated works within private or public
  215  employment. The same immunity provisions enjoyed by an employer
  216  shall also apply to any sole proprietor, partner, corporate
  217  officer or director, supervisor, or other person who in the
  218  course and scope of his or her duties acts in a managerial or
  219  policymaking capacity and the conduct which caused the alleged
  220  injury arose within the course and scope of said managerial or
  221  policymaking duties and was not a violation of a law, whether or
  222  not a violation was charged, for which the maximum penalty which
  223  may be imposed does not exceed 60 days’ imprisonment as set
  224  forth in s. 775.082. The immunity from liability provided in
  225  this subsection extends to county governments with respect to
  226  employees of county constitutional officers whose offices are
  227  funded by the board of county commissioners.
  228         Section 5. Paragraph (a) of subsection (2), paragraph (d)
  229  of subsection (3), paragraphs (a) and (e) of subsection (4), and
  230  subsection (6) of section 440.15, Florida Statutes, are amended,
  231  and subsection (13) is added to that section, to read:
  232         440.15 Compensation for disability.—Compensation for
  233  disability shall be paid to the employee, subject to the limits
  234  provided in s. 440.12(2), as follows:
  236         (a) Subject to subsections subsection (7) and (13), in case
  237  of disability total in character but temporary in quality, 66
  238  2/3 or 66.67 percent of the average weekly wages must shall be
  239  paid to the employee during the continuance thereof, not to
  240  exceed 104 weeks except as provided in this subsection, s.
  241  440.12 s. 440.12(1), and s. 440.14 s. 440.14(3). Once the
  242  employee reaches the maximum number of weeks allowed, or the
  243  employee reaches overall the date of maximum medical
  244  improvement, whichever occurs earlier, temporary disability
  245  benefits must shall cease and the injured worker’s permanent
  246  impairment must shall be determined.
  248         (d) After the employee has been certified by a doctor as
  249  having reached maximum medical improvement or 6 weeks before the
  250  expiration of temporary benefits, whichever occurs earlier, the
  251  certifying doctor shall evaluate the condition of the employee
  252  and assign an impairment rating, using the impairment schedule
  253  referred to in paragraph (b). If the certification and
  254  evaluation are performed by a doctor other than the employee’s
  255  treating doctor, the certification and evaluation must be
  256  submitted to the treating doctor, the employee, and the carrier
  257  within 10 days after the evaluation. The treating doctor must
  258  indicate to the carrier agreement or disagreement with the other
  259  doctor’s certification and evaluation.
  260         1. The certifying doctor shall issue a written report to
  261  the employee and the carrier certifying that maximum medical
  262  improvement has been reached, stating the impairment rating to
  263  the body as a whole, and providing any other information
  264  required by the department by rule. The carrier shall establish
  265  an overall maximum medical improvement date and permanent
  266  impairment rating, based upon all such reports.
  267         2. Within 14 days after the carrier’s knowledge of each
  268  maximum medical improvement date and impairment rating to the
  269  body as a whole upon which the carrier is paying benefits, the
  270  carrier shall report such maximum medical improvement date and,
  271  when determined, the overall maximum medical improvement date
  272  and associated impairment rating to the department in a format
  273  as set forth in department rule. If the employee has not been
  274  certified as having reached overall maximum medical improvement
  275  before the expiration of 254 98 weeks after the date temporary
  276  disability benefits begin to accrue, the carrier shall notify
  277  the treating doctor of the requirements of this section.
  278         3.If an employee receiving benefits under subsection (2),
  279  subsection (4), or both subsections (2) and (4) has not reached
  280  overall maximum medical improvement before receiving the maximum
  281  number of weeks of temporary disability benefits described in
  282  subsection (13), the employee must receive benefits under this
  283  subsection for an injury resulting from the accident in
  284  accordance with the estimated impairment rating for the body as
  285  a whole; or, if multiple injuries are sustained, in accordance
  286  with the estimated combined impairment ratings for the body as a
  287  whole in the 1996 Florida Uniform Permanent Impairment Rating
  288  Schedule. Impairment benefits received under this subparagraph
  289  must be credited against indemnity benefits subsequently due to
  290  the employee.
  292         (a) Subject to subsections (6), subsection (7), and (13),
  293  in case of temporary partial disability, compensation must shall
  294  be equal to 80 percent of the difference between 80 percent of
  295  the employee’s average weekly wage and the salary, wages, and
  296  other remuneration the employee is able to earn postinjury, as
  297  compared weekly; however, weekly temporary partial disability
  298  benefits may not exceed an amount equal to 66 2/3 or 66.67
  299  percent of the employee’s average weekly wage at the time of
  300  accident. In order to simplify the comparison of the preinjury
  301  average weekly wage with the salary, wages, and other
  302  remuneration the employee is able to earn postinjury, the
  303  department may by rule provide for payment of the initial
  304  installment of temporary partial disability benefits to be paid
  305  as a partial week so that payment for remaining weeks of
  306  temporary partial disability can coincide as closely as possible
  307  with the postinjury employer’s work week. The amount determined
  308  to be the salary, wages, and other remuneration the employee is
  309  able to earn shall in no case be less than the sum actually
  310  being earned by the employee, including earnings from sheltered
  311  employment. Benefits are shall be payable under this subsection
  312  only if overall maximum medical improvement has not been reached
  313  and the medical conditions resulting from the accident create
  314  restrictions on the injured employee’s ability to return to
  315  work.
  316         (e) Subject to subsections (6), (7), and (13), such
  317  benefits must shall be paid during the continuance of such
  318  disability, not to exceed a period of 104 weeks, as provided by
  319  this subsection and subsection (2). Once the injured employee
  320  reaches the maximum number of weeks, temporary disability
  321  benefits cease and the injured worker’s permanent impairment
  322  must be determined. If the employee is terminated from
  323  postinjury employment based on the employee’s misconduct,
  324  temporary partial disability benefits are not payable as
  325  provided for in this section. The department shall by rule
  326  specify forms and procedures governing the method and time for
  327  payment of temporary disability benefits for dates of accidents
  328  before January 1, 1994, and for dates of accidents on or after
  329  January 1, 1994.
  330         (6) EMPLOYEE REFUSES EMPLOYMENT.—If an injured employee
  331  refuses employment suitable to the capacity thereof, offered to
  332  or procured therefor, such employee is shall not be entitled to
  333  any compensation at any time during the continuance of such
  334  refusal unless at any time in the opinion of the judge of
  335  compensation claims such refusal is justifiable. Time periods
  336  for the payment of benefits in accordance with this section must
  337  shall be counted in determining the limitation of benefits as
  338  provided for in subsection (13) paragraphs (2)(a), (3)(c), and
  339  (4)(b).
  340         (13) MAXIMUM BENEFITS ALLOWED.—The total number of weeks of
  341  benefits received by an employee for temporary total disability
  342  payable pursuant to subsection (2), temporary partial disability
  343  payable pursuant to subsection (4), and temporary total
  344  disability payable pursuant to s. 440.491 may not exceed 260
  345  weeks.
  346         Section 6. Section 440.1915, Florida Statutes, is created
  347  to read:
  348         440.1915 Notice regarding payment of attorney fees.—Before
  349  engaging an attorney or other representative for services
  350  related to a petition for benefits under s. 440.192 or s.
  351  440.25, an injured employee or any other party making a claim
  352  for benefits under this chapter through an attorney shall attest
  353  with his or her personal signature that he or she has reviewed,
  354  understands, and acknowledges the following statement, which
  355  must be in at least 14-point bold type: “THE WORKERS’
  364  BEFORE YOU SIGN IT.” If the injured employee or other party does
  365  not sign or refuses to sign the document attesting that he or
  366  she has reviewed, understands, and acknowledges the statement,
  367  the injured employee or other party making a claim under this
  368  chapter may not proceed with a petition for benefits under s.
  369  440.192 or s. 440.25, except pro se, until such signature is
  370  obtained.
  371         Section 7. Subsections (2), (4), (5), and (7) of section
  372  440.192, Florida Statutes, are amended, and subsection (1) of
  373  that section is republished, to read:
  374         440.192 Procedure for resolving benefit disputes.—
  375         (1) Any employee may, for any benefit that is ripe, due,
  376  and owing, file with the Office of the Judges of Compensation
  377  Claims a petition for benefits which meets the requirements of
  378  this section and the definition of specificity in s. 440.02. An
  379  employee represented by an attorney shall file by electronic
  380  means approved by the Deputy Chief Judge. An employee not
  381  represented by an attorney may file by certified mail or by
  382  electronic means approved by the Deputy Chief Judge. The
  383  department shall inform employees of the location of the Office
  384  of the Judges of Compensation Claims and the office’s website
  385  address for purposes of filing a petition for benefits. The
  386  employee shall also serve copies of the petition for benefits by
  387  certified mail, or by electronic means approved by the Deputy
  388  Chief Judge, upon the employer and the employer’s carrier. The
  389  Deputy Chief Judge shall refer the petitions to the judges of
  390  compensation claims.
  391         (2) Upon receipt of a petition, the Office of the Judges of
  392  Compensation Claims, or upon motion, the assigned judge of
  393  compensation claims, shall review the each petition and shall
  394  dismiss the each petition or any portion of the such a petition
  395  which that does not comply with the requirements of this
  396  section, does not meet the definition of specificity under s.
  397  440.02(40), and does not on its face specifically identify or
  398  itemize the following:
  399         (a) The name, address, and telephone number, and social
  400  security number of the employee.
  401         (b) The name, address, and telephone number of the
  402  employer.
  403         (c) A detailed description of the injury and cause of the
  404  injury, including the location of the occurrence and the date or
  405  dates of the accident and the county in this state or, if the
  406  accident occurred outside of this state, the state where the
  407  accident occurred.
  408         (d) A detailed description of the employee’s job, work
  409  responsibilities, and work the employee was performing when the
  410  injury occurred.
  411         (e) The specific time period for which compensation and the
  412  specific classification of compensation were not timely
  413  provided.
  414         (f) The specific date of maximum medical improvement,
  415  character of disability, and specific statement of all benefits
  416  or compensation that the employee is seeking. A claim for
  417  permanent benefits must include the specific date of maximum
  418  medical improvement and the specific date on which such
  419  permanent benefits are claimed to begin.
  420         (g) All specific travel costs to which the employee
  421  believes she or he is entitled, including dates of travel and
  422  purpose of travel, means of transportation, and mileage and
  423  including the date the request for mileage was filed with the
  424  carrier and a copy of the request filed with the carrier.
  425         (h) Specific listing of all medical charges alleged unpaid,
  426  including the name and address of the medical provider, the
  427  amounts due, and the specific dates of treatment.
  428         (i) The type or nature of treatment care or attendance
  429  sought and the justification for such treatment. If the employee
  430  is under the care of a physician for an injury identified under
  431  paragraph (c), a copy of the physician’s request, authorization,
  432  or recommendation for treatment, care, or attendance must
  433  accompany the petition.
  434         (j) The specific amount of compensation claimed and the
  435  methodology used the calculate the average weekly wage, if the
  436  average weekly wage calculated by the employer or carrier is
  437  disputed. There is a rebuttable presumption that the average
  438  weekly wage and corresponding compensation calculated by the
  439  employer or carrier is accurate.
  440         (k) Specific explanation of any other disputed issue that a
  441  judge of compensation claims will be called to rule upon.
  442         (l)The signed attestation required pursuant to s.
  443  440.1915.
  444         (m)Certification and evidence of a good faith attempt to
  445  resolve the dispute pursuant to subsection (4).
  447  The dismissal of any petition or portion of such a petition
  448  under this subsection section is without prejudice and does not
  449  require a hearing.
  450         (4)(a)Before filing a petition, the claimant, or if the
  451  claimant is represented by counsel, the claimant’s attorney,
  452  shall make a good faith effort to resolve the dispute. The
  453  petition must include:
  454         1. A certification by the claimant or, if the claimant is
  455  represented by counsel, the claimant’s attorney, stating that
  456  the claimant, or attorney if the claimant is represented by
  457  counsel, has made a good faith effort to resolve the dispute and
  458  that the claimant or attorney was unable to resolve the dispute
  459  with the carrier, or the employer if self-insured; and
  460         2.Evidence demonstrating such good faith attempt to
  461  resolve the dispute as described in the certification.
  462         (b)If the petition is not dismissed under subsection (2),
  463  the judge of compensation claims has jurisdiction to determine,
  464  in his or her independent discretion, whether a good faith
  465  effort to resolve the dispute was made by the claimant or the
  466  claimant’s attorney. If the judge of compensation claims
  467  determines that the claimant or the claimant’s attorney did not
  468  make a good faith effort to resolve the dispute before filing
  469  the petition for benefits, the judge of compensation claims must
  470  dismiss the petition and may impose sanctions to ensure
  471  compliance with this subsection, which may include, but are not
  472  limited to, assessment of attorney fees payable by the
  473  claimant’s attorney.
  474         (5)(a) All motions to dismiss must state with particularity
  475  the basis for the motion. The judge of compensation claims shall
  476  enter an order upon such motions without hearing, unless good
  477  cause for hearing is shown. Dismissal of any petition or portion
  478  of a petition under this subsection is without prejudice.
  479         (b)Upon motion that a petition or a portion of a petition
  480  be dismissed for lack of specificity, a judge of compensation
  481  claims shall enter an order on the motion, unless stipulated in
  482  writing by the parties, within 10 days after the motion is
  483  filed, or, if good cause for a hearing is shown, within 20 days
  484  after a hearing on the motion. When any petition or portion of a
  485  petition is dismissed for lack of specificity under this
  486  subsection, the claimant must be allowed 20 days after the date
  487  of the order of dismissal in which to file an amended petition.
  488  Any grounds for dismissal for lack of specificity under this
  489  section which are not asserted within 30 days after receipt of
  490  the petition for benefits are thereby waived.
  491         (7) Notwithstanding the provisions of s. 440.34, a judge of
  492  compensation claims may not award attorney attorney’s fees
  493  payable by the employer or carrier for services expended or
  494  costs incurred before: prior to
  495         (a) The filing of a petition that meets the definition of
  496  specificity under s. 440.02(40) and that includes all items
  497  required under subsection (2); or
  498         (b)The claimant or the claimant’s attorney, if the
  499  claimant is represented by counsel, has made a good faith effort
  500  to resolve the dispute does not meet the requirements of this
  501  section.
  502         Section 8. Paragraph (c) of subsection (11) of section
  503  440.20, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
  504         440.20 Time for payment of compensation and medical bills;
  505  penalties for late payment.—
  506         (11)
  507         (c) Notwithstanding s. 440.21(2), when a claimant is
  508  represented by counsel, the claimant may waive all rights to any
  509  and all benefits under this chapter by entering into a
  510  settlement agreement releasing the employer and the carrier from
  511  liability for workers’ compensation benefits in exchange for a
  512  lump-sum payment to the claimant. The settlement agreement need
  513  not be approved requires approval by the judge of compensation
  514  claims, and only as to the attorney’s fees paid to the
  515  claimant’s attorney by the claimant. the parties need not submit
  516  any information or documentation in support of the settlement,
  517  except for as needed to justify the amount of the settlement and
  518  the attorney attorney’s fees and costs paid by the claimant to
  519  the claimant’s attorney. Neither the employer nor the carrier is
  520  responsible for any attorney attorney’s fees relating to the
  521  settlement and release of claims under this section. Payment of
  522  the lump-sum settlement amount must be made within 14 days after
  523  the date the judge of compensation claims mails the order
  524  approving the settlement allocation’s recovery of child support
  525  arrearages under paragraph (d) attorney’s fees. Any order
  526  entered by a judge of compensation claims approving the
  527  attorney’s fees as set out in the settlement under this
  528  subsection is not considered to be an award and is not subject
  529  to modification or review. The judge of compensation claims
  530  shall report these settlements to the Deputy Chief Judge in
  531  accordance with the requirements set forth in paragraphs (a) and
  532  (b). Settlements entered into under this subsection are valid
  533  and apply to all dates of accident.
  534         Section 9. Paragraphs (h) and (j) of subsection (4) of
  535  section 440.25, Florida Statutes, are amended to read:
  536         440.25 Procedures for mediation and hearings.—
  537         (4)
  538         (h) To further expedite dispute resolution and to enhance
  539  the self-executing features of the system, those petitions filed
  540  in accordance with s. 440.192 that involve a claim for benefits
  541  of $5,000 or less shall, in the absence of compelling evidence
  542  to the contrary, are be presumed to be appropriate for expedited
  543  resolution under this paragraph; and any other claim filed in
  544  accordance with s. 440.192, upon the written agreement of both
  545  parties and application by either party, may similarly be
  546  resolved under this paragraph. A claim in a petition of $5,000
  547  or less for medical benefits only or a petition for
  548  reimbursement for mileage for medical purposes must shall, in
  549  the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, be resolved
  550  through the expedited dispute resolution process provided in
  551  this paragraph. For purposes of expedited resolution pursuant to
  552  this paragraph, the Deputy Chief Judge shall make provision by
  553  rule or order for expedited and limited discovery and expedited
  554  docketing in such cases. At least 15 days before prior to
  555  hearing, the parties shall exchange and file with the judge of
  556  compensation claims a pretrial outline of all issues, defenses,
  557  and witnesses, including a personal attestation by the
  558  claimant’s attorney detailing his or her hours to date, on a
  559  form adopted by the Deputy Chief Judge,; provided that, in no
  560  event shall such hearing may not be held without 15 days’
  561  written notice to all parties. The personal attestation by the
  562  claimant’s attorney must specifically allocate the hours by each
  563  benefit claimed and account for hours relating to multiple
  564  benefits in a manner that apportions such hours by percentage,
  565  in whole numbers, to each benefit. No pretrial hearing shall be
  566  held and no mediation scheduled unless requested by a party. The
  567  judge of compensation claims shall limit all argument and
  568  presentation of evidence at the hearing to a maximum of 30
  569  minutes, and such hearings shall not exceed 30 minutes in
  570  length. Neither party shall be required to be represented by
  571  counsel. The employer or carrier may be represented by an
  572  adjuster or other qualified representative. The employer or
  573  carrier and any witness may appear at such hearing by telephone.
  574  The rules of evidence shall be liberally construed in favor of
  575  allowing introduction of evidence.
  576         (j) A judge of compensation claims may not award interest
  577  on unpaid medical bills and the amount of such bills may not be
  578  used to calculate the amount of interest awarded. Regardless of
  579  the date benefits are were initially requested, attorney
  580  attorney’s fees do not attach under this subsection until 45
  581  business 30 days after the date on which a the carrier or self
  582  insured employer receives the petition is filed with the Office
  583  of the Judges of Compensation Claims and unless the following
  584  conditions are met:
  585         1.Before the petition is filed, the claimant or the
  586  claimant’s attorney, if the claimant is represented by counsel,
  587  makes a good faith effort to resolve the dispute as provided in
  588  s. 440.192(4); and
  589         2.The petition meets the definition of specificity under
  590  s. 440.02(40) and includes all items required under s.
  591  440.192(2).
  592         Section 10. Section 440.34, Florida Statutes, is amended to
  593  read:
  594         440.34 Attorney Attorney’s fees; costs.—
  595         (1)(a)A judge of compensation claims may award attorney
  596  fees payable to the claimant pursuant to this section to be paid
  597  by the employer or carrier. An employer or carrier is not
  598  responsible for payment of a fee, gratuity, costs, or other
  599  consideration may not be paid for a claimant in connection with
  600  any proceedings arising under this chapter, unless approved by
  601  the judge of compensation claims or court having jurisdiction
  602  over such proceedings. Attorney fees payable by the employer or
  603  carrier and Any attorney’s fee approved by a judge of
  604  compensation claims for benefits secured on behalf of a claimant
  605  must equal to 20 percent of the first $5,000 of the amount of
  606  the benefits secured, 15 percent of the next $5,000 of the
  607  amount of the benefits secured, 10 percent of the remaining
  608  amount of the benefits secured to be provided during the first
  609  10 years after the date the claim is filed, and 5 percent of the
  610  benefits secured after 10 years.
  611         (b)A The judge of compensation claims shall not approve a
  612  compensation order, a joint stipulation for lump-sum settlement,
  613  a stipulation or agreement between a claimant and his or her
  614  attorney, or any other agreement related to benefits under this
  615  chapter which provides for an attorney’s fee in excess of the
  616  amount permitted by this section. The judge of compensation
  617  claims is not required to approve any retainer agreement between
  618  the claimant and his or her attorney is not subject to approval
  619  by a judge of compensation claims, but must be filed with the
  620  Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims. An attorney
  621  retained by an injured employee and receiving a fee or other
  622  consideration from the injured employee under contract with the
  623  injured employee shall report the amounts of such attorney fees
  624  to the judge of compensation claims having jurisdiction over the
  625  claim for benefits based on the county in which the accident
  626  occurred; or, if the accident occurred outside of this state, to
  627  the Deputy Chief Judge. Notwithstanding s. 440.22, attorney fees
  628  are a lien upon compensation payable to the claimant The
  629  retainer agreement as to fees and costs may not be for
  630  compensation in excess of the amount allowed under this
  631  subsection or subsection (7).
  632         (2)(a) In awarding a claimant’s attorney fees payable by
  633  the employer or carrier attorney’s fee, a the judge of
  634  compensation claims shall consider only those benefits secured
  635  by the attorney. An Attorney is not entitled to attorney’s fees
  636  are not payable by the employer or carrier for:
  637         1. Representation in any issue that was ripe, due, and
  638  owing and that reasonably could have been addressed, but was not
  639  addressed, during the pendency of other issues for the same
  640  injury;
  641         2.Claimant attorney hours reasonably related to a benefit
  642  upon which the claimant did not prevail; or
  643         3.Claimant attorney hours reasonably related to a petition
  644  for benefits, if the judge of compensation claims determines
  645  that the claimant or the claimant’s attorney did not make a good
  646  faith effort to resolve the dispute before filing the petition,
  647  regardless of whether the petition is dismissed by the judge of
  648  compensation claims, the claimant, or the claimant’s attorney.
  649         (b) The amount, statutory basis, and type of benefits
  650  obtained through legal representation must shall be listed on
  651  all attorney attorney’s fees awarded by a the judge of
  652  compensation claims which are payable by the employer or
  653  carrier. For purposes of this section, the term “benefits
  654  secured” does not include future medical benefits to be provided
  655  on any date more than 5 years after the date the petition claim
  656  is filed. If In the event an offer to settle an issue pending
  657  before a judge of compensation claims, including attorney
  658  attorney’s fees as provided for in this section, is communicated
  659  in writing to the claimant or the claimant’s attorney at least
  660  30 days before prior to the trial date on such issue, for
  661  purposes of calculating the amount of attorney attorney’s fees
  662  to be taxed against the employer or carrier, the term “benefits
  663  secured” includes shall be deemed to include only that amount
  664  awarded to the claimant above the amount specified in the offer
  665  to settle. If multiple issues are pending before a the judge of
  666  compensation claims, such said offer of settlement must shall
  667  address each issue pending and shall state explicitly whether or
  668  not the offer on each issue is severable. The written offer must
  669  shall also unequivocally state whether or not it includes
  670  medical witness fees and expenses and all other costs associated
  671  with the claim.
  672         (3) If a any party prevails should prevail in any
  673  proceedings before a judge of compensation claims or court,
  674  there shall be taxed against the nonprevailing party the
  675  reasonable costs of such proceedings, not to include attorney
  676  attorney’s fees. A claimant is responsible for the payment of
  677  her or his own attorney attorney’s fees, except that a claimant
  678  is entitled to recover attorney fees an attorney’s fee in an
  679  amount equal to the amount provided for in subsection (1) or
  680  subsection (5) (7) from a carrier or employer:
  681         (a) Against whom she or he successfully asserts a petition
  682  for medical benefits only, if the claimant has not filed or is
  683  not entitled to file at such time a claim for temporary or
  684  permanent disability, permanent impairment, wage-loss, or death
  685  benefits, arising out of the same accident;
  686         (b) In a any case in which the employer or carrier files a
  687  response to petition denying benefits with the Office of the
  688  Judges of Compensation Claims and the injured person has
  689  employed an attorney in the successful prosecution of the
  690  petition;
  691         (c) In a proceeding in which a carrier or employer denies
  692  that an accident occurred for which compensation benefits are
  693  payable, and the claimant prevails on the issue of
  694  compensability; or
  695         (d) In cases in which where the claimant successfully
  696  prevails in proceedings filed under s. 440.24 or s. 440.28.
  698  Regardless of the date benefits are were initially requested,
  699  attorney attorney’s fees do shall not attach under this
  700  subsection until 45 business 30 days after the date on which a
  701  the carrier or employer, if self-insured, receives the petition
  702  that meets the definition of specificity under s. 440.02(40) and
  703  includes all items required under s. 440.192(2) is filed with
  704  the Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims. Such attorney
  705  fees do not attach unless before the petition was filed, the
  706  claimant or the claimant’s attorney, if the claimant is
  707  represented by counsel, made a good faith effort to resolve the
  708  dispute as provided in s. 440.192(4).
  709         (4) In such cases in which the claimant is responsible for
  710  the payment of her or his own attorney’s fees, such fees are a
  711  lien upon compensation payable to the claimant, notwithstanding
  712  s. 440.22.
  713         (4)(5) If any proceedings are had for review of a any
  714  claim, award, or compensation order before any court, the court
  715  may, at its discretion, award the injured employee or dependent
  716  attorney fees payable an attorney’s fee to be paid by the
  717  employer or carrier, not to exceed an hourly rate of $150 per
  718  hour, but only if the employer or carrier disputes the claim,
  719  award, or compensation order and the injured employee or
  720  dependent prevails in the dispute in its discretion, which shall
  721  be paid as the court may direct.
  722         (6) A judge of compensation claims may not enter an order
  723  approving the contents of a retainer agreement that permits
  724  placing any portion of the employee’s compensation into an
  725  escrow account until benefits have been secured.
  726         (5)(7) If attorney fees are an attorney’s fee is owed under
  727  paragraph (3)(a), the judge of compensation claims may award
  728  approve an alternative attorney fees payable by the employer or
  729  carrier, attorney’s fee not to exceed $1,500 and only once per
  730  accident, based on a maximum hourly rate of $150 per hour, if
  731  the judge of compensation claims expressly finds that the
  732  attorney attorney’s fee schedule amount provided for in
  733  subsection (1), based on benefits secured, results in an
  734  effective hourly rate of less than $150 per hour fails to fairly
  735  compensate the attorney for disputed medical-only claims as
  736  provided in paragraph (3)(a) and the circumstances of the
  737  particular case warrant such action. Attorney fees payable by
  738  the employer or carrier under this subsection are in lieu of,
  739  rather than in addition to, any other attorney fees available
  740  under this section.
  741         Section 11. Paragraph (b) of subsection (6) of section
  742  440.491, Florida Statutes, is amended to read:
  743         440.491 Reemployment of injured workers; rehabilitation.—
  744         (6) TRAINING AND EDUCATION.—
  745         (b) When an employee who has attained maximum medical
  746  improvement is unable to earn at least 80 percent of the
  747  compensation rate and requires training and education to obtain
  748  suitable gainful employment, the employer or carrier shall pay
  749  the employee additional training and education temporary total
  750  compensation benefits while the employee receives such training
  751  and education for a period not to exceed 26 weeks, which period
  752  may be extended for an additional 26 weeks or less, if such
  753  extended period is determined to be necessary and proper by a
  754  judge of compensation claims. The benefits provided under this
  755  paragraph are shall not be in addition to the maximum number of
  756  104 weeks as specified in s. 440.15(2) or s. 440.15(13).
  757  However, a carrier or employer is not precluded from voluntarily
  758  paying additional temporary total disability compensation beyond
  759  that period. If an employee requires temporary residence at or
  760  near a facility or an institution providing training and
  761  education which is located more than 50 miles away from the
  762  employee’s customary residence, the reasonable cost of board,
  763  lodging, or travel must be borne by the department from the
  764  Workers’ Compensation Administration Trust Fund established by
  765  s. 440.50. An employee who refuses to accept training and
  766  education that is recommended by the vocational evaluator and
  767  considered necessary by the department will forfeit any
  768  additional training and education benefits and any additional
  769  compensation payment for lost wages under this chapter. The
  770  carrier shall notify the injured employee of the availability of
  771  training and education benefits as specified in this chapter.
  772  The Department of Financial Services shall include information
  773  regarding the eligibility for training and education benefits in
  774  informational materials specified in ss. 440.207 and 440.40.
  775         Section 12. This act shall take effect July 1, 2019.