Petition filings and new case filings continued to decline last year. Remember, the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims (OJCC)(and the rest of the state) runs on a fiscal year, which begins each July 1 and concludes the following June 30. So, fiscal 2013 ended last summer, and the OJCC has been compiling and preparing statistics and measures since then. It is a long process that includes verification of data that our district staff has entered into the database through the year.
In 2012-13, 58,041 PFB were filed. In 1995-96 the total PFB filing was 56,298. So, after a significant increase in litigation following the 1994 reforms, PFB volumes are approaching the pre-reform volumes. This is an imperfect comparison. Before the 1993 reforms, "claims" were the operative pleading for identifying the dispute, and jurisdiction of this Office over such disputes was effected by filing an "application for hearing" regarding the claim. With this significant change in 1993, it is difficult to compare filing volumes to periods before 1993.
The Florida Legislature enacted significant amendments to the Florida Workers’ Compensation Law in 1994 and again in 2003. It is interesting that petition filings steadily increased after the 1994 reforms. Just prior to the 2003 reforms, PFB filings peaked at 151,021. The progressive increase in PFB filings between 1994 and 2003 belie the efficacy of the 1994 reforms’ intent to decrease litigation.
Immediately following the 2003 reforms, the PFB filing volume decreased at a consistent annual rate of approximately fifteen percent (15.21% to 15.9%) over each of the next three years, and then continued to decline with reasonable consistently through fiscal 2013 with the sole exception of a slight (less than 2%) increase in 2008-09. Despite these decreases, PFB filing volume in 2012-13 remains in excess of the volume in 1994 (38,254) when the reform was passed.
The slight increase in 2008-09 is a curiosity. During that year, PFB volumes had trended down on a monthly basis until the rendition of the Supreme Court Murray decision regarding attorney's fees. After that decision, there was an increase in PFB volume for the second half of the fiscal year, leading to this small (less than 2%) overall increase for the year. The trend returned to decreases the next year and since, however.
In 2012-13, the decrease in PFB filing was 5.4%. This is the third consecutive year in which PFB filing has decreased about 5%. If this trend (decrease) and rate (annual 5%) continue, the annual PFB filing rate will return to 1994 levels (38,254) in approximately eight years, about 2021.
The "new case" volume in 2012-13 was 28,912. This is the lowest new case volume since the OJCC began tracking this statistic in 2001-02.