Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Florida Claimant Attorneys Fees Decreased in 2013-14

There is news coming in the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims 2014 Annual Report. One of the data points that sometimes stimulates conversations is the attorney fee volumes. The report will provide details of the attorney fees paid in Florida workers' compensation on both sides of the table in 2014. 

The defense fees will be featured in a future blog post. The 2014 OJCC analysis revealed a data flaw in defense fee reporting, which may cause significant discussions around the Florida marketplace in weeks to come. That is for another day however. 

The claimant fees in Florida are memorialized with each Motion for Approval of Attorneys' Fees and Child Support Allocation and Stipulation for Attorneys Fees, and Order Awarding Attorney Fees entered throughout the state. These motions and orders are processed by the OJCC district staff and attorney fee and cost data is contemporaneously captured in the OJCC database. 

The process of capturing this data used to be far more paper-dependent. Figures were documented by district staff in periodic summaries that were mailed to Tallahassee and manually compiled. We have come a long way in the area of data collection. 

For  the sake of historical perspective, each Annual Report provides data for several years. In 2002-03 about $210,660,738 was paid in attorney's fees for representing injured workers in Florida. 

Over the last 11 years, the payments to claimant's counsel have decreased with reasonable regularity. There was one year, 2003-04 when claimant fees increased some (2.21%), and there was one year, 2012-13, when the decrease was minimal (-.63%). But the overall trend has nonetheless been downward. 

In 2013-14, the total was $141,858,184. Claimant fees were paid in 34,518 instances last year. The average fee was $4,109.69; that is when the total of $141,858.184 is divided by 34,518, the result is $4,109.69. 

Statisticians and mathematicians (I am neither) note that averages may sometimes be influenced by some population of very large or very small items, sometimes called "outliers." They therefore also measure data distributions with the "median," which is the value in the studied data distribution that is in the middle of all of the individual entries. The median claimant's attorney fee in Florida in 2014 was $1,750.00.

Yet another tool these professionals employ for analysis is the "mode," which is the value that appears the most often in such a distribution of values. The 2013-14 mode was $1,500.00. This could be coincidental, but there is a provision in Fla. Stat. 440.24 that allows for payment of a "medical only" fee in an amount not to exceed $1,500.00, and that statutory construct may be part of an explanation for the frequency of $1,500.00 in this distribution. 

The lowest claimant attorney fee awarded or approved in 2014 was for $1.00. When I saw that entry in the data, I was curious. The order making that award was interesting reading. The highest was $507,000.00. Obviously, there is a wide range represented by these two figures. 

Comparing the 2002-03 claimant's attorney fee total of $210,660,738 to the 2013-14 total of $141,858,184, the claimant attorney fees have decreased over 11 years by almost $70 million dollars. The overall decrease has been about 33%. 

The defense fee section of the 2013-14 Report will be featured in a post soon. 

No comments:

Post a Comment