While everyone gets ready for “Comp Camp” next month at the FWCI Convention in Orlando, with all of its catered meals, live music, and open bars, we must not forget that things actually get done at the Convention.  For example, the Division of Administration Hearings (DOAH) has proposed changes to the Rules of Procedure for W/C Adjudications and will be presenting them at a hearing at the Convention on August 18, from 8 am to 9:30 am.

These changes reflect the desire to transfer all legal pleadings to towards e-filing, as well as streamline the mediation process.  However, buried within these procedural changes is a whopper of a rule change that can affect every claims professional and HR person handling W/C files:  

Finally, DOAH is placing a Statute of Limitations on motions for Claimant attorney fees.

Rule 60Q-6.107 governs the amending and dismissal of Petitions for Benefits.  Under the proposed changes, DOAH wants to put a time limit on when Claimant attorneys can file a Motion for Attorney Fees (or Verified Fee Petition). 

The proposal is as follows:

(4) Any party seeking an order determing the entitlement to or amount of attorney’s fees or costs shall file the motion therfor within 365 days after the provision of benefits, dismissal of claim, judicial order, or appellate mandate from which the movant claims attorney’s fees or costs are due.  Untimely motions or petitions for attorney’s fees or costs will be dismissed.

To simplify, a Claimant attorney has no more than 1 year to file his motion for fees after the date of the first provision of benefits.  If they do not file by then, then they lose the right to seek fees against the Carrier.  Currently, there is no time limit on when a Claimant attorney can file a motion for fees against an E/C.  A claim can be closed for years, and a Claimant attorney can just dust off his file and instigate litigation for fees.

If this passes, it would be a relief to E/C’s everywhere.  No longer would you “close” a file for inactivity, lower your reserves, only to have to reopen years later when Claimant attorney files a motion for fees.  This would save huge costs and fee exposure.

Naturally, the Claimant’s bar is going to fight this.  And, even if it passes, expect a challenge to the First DCA.   But, if it does pass, this will be alleviate many “old dog” claims that many E/C’s cannot make go away.  The rule also looks like a Claimant attorney can seek just an order for fee entitlement and delay a motion for amount after the 365 day deadline.  

So, for those of you who will attend the Convention next month, be sure to check out this hearing to see whether these proposals will become reality.

If you are not attending, stay tuned for developments. . .

You can check out the proposed Rule changes here.