Worker’s Compensation

Workers’ compensation laws are designed to compensate employees who have been injured or killed in work related accidents according to a fixed monetary scheme, without having to resort to litigation. Dependents of a fatally injured employee may also be entitled to benefits. Employers may be protected by limits placed on the amount of an employee’s recovery.

The benefits provided under Tennessee workers’ compensation law are:

  • Payment of medical expenses directly related to the treatment of a compensable injury
  • Payment of temporary disability benefits until you are able to return to your job
  • Payment of permanent disability benefits if your compensable injury permanently lessens your ability to perform your job
  • Death benefits which are payable to your dependents in the event that your compensable injury leads to your death

If you aren’t able to work at all after your injury, you may be entitled to total disability.

As crude as it sounds, in some states there are schedules that list the amount of compensation to be paid for a particular injury. For example, a certain dollar amount will be paid for the amputation of your limb at a certain joint.

In some cases, a vocational rehabilitation expert may get involved and give an opinion as to your future potential to earn compared to your earning potential prior to being injured.

Your employer’s workers’ comp insurance may be responsible for vocational rehabilitation training, so that you can work at some meaningful job that is geared to your current abilities.

If there are permanent restrictions, your employer is generally responsible to offer you a replacement job, if there is one available within the restrictions of what you can now do. If there are no such jobs, there is no guarantee of future employment with your employer.

Workers’ comp is your exclusive remedy, which means that you can’t sue your employer, but are only entitled to benefits under your state’s workers’ comp laws.
In some cases, however, you can file a lawsuit against another party other than your employer. For example, you could sue the manufacturer of a dangerous machine, or the driver of another vehicle that caused the accident injuring you.

Who May File a Claim?

Typical workers’ compensation statutes allow only employees to file claims stemming from work-related injuries. Spouses and dependents are not allowed to file loss of consortium or loss of services claims for injuries. In the case of a work-related death, however, spouses or other dependents may generally seek death benefits and burial expenses under the workers’ compensation system.

The death benefits are typically restricted to true dependents (not merely heirs). They are designed to assist the dependents in living without the employee’s income. For this reason, the subsequent marriage of a spouse will negate his or her ability to receive continued benefits. Furthermore, death benefits cease with the death of the beneficiary. In some cases, however, dependent children acquire the rights of a spouse upon his or her death.

What May Be Paid Under a Claim?

Employees may typically recover medical expenses and lost wages resulting from a temporary or permanent disability. Death benefits include burial costs, usually even where a life insurance policy exists.

Claim Procedures

Most statutes require employees to notify employers of their injuries within a certain number of days after the accident. Persons acting on behalf of an employee may provide this notice to the employer.

Tennessee statutes prescribe a certain period within which the notice must be given or the notice must be given “as soon as practicable.” Sometimes, the notice provisions do not apply to death claims. Furthermore, if a worker is mentally incompetent or incapacitated because of his injuries, he or she is generally excused from the notice requirements.

Once an employer has been notified of a work-related injury or death, it will typically notify its workers’ compensation insurer. If the employer and its carrier accept liability for the injury, a notice of compensation payable will be issued to the employee.

If the employer and the insurer deny coverage on the claim, the employee must contact an attorney immediately to seek proper relief of their claim through the Tennessee department of labor or the Chancery Court of where the injury either occurred or employee resides. Once a claim is decided, the losing party or parties have rights to appeal. Such appeals may continue all the way to the state supreme court.

There are four types of injuries which workers compensation may cover:

  1. Traumatic physical injuries
  2. Repeated trauma injury
  3. Mental injuries
  4. Occupational disease

The vast majority of workers compensation claims are going to be characterized as a traumatic physical personal injury arising out of an accident.

The next most common group of injuries are those cases of repeated trauma.

There is no actual striking or wounding of the body, but small harms occurring over a lengthy period of time. For example, if a worker is required to repetitively insert and pull out pieces of material from machinery thousands and tens of thousands of time over periods of days or weeks, that can result in repetitive injury to the arms, shoulder, neck and back. This puts excessive strain on the soft tissues involved, including muscles, ligaments and tendons.

Often employers in repeated trauma injuries will try to prove that the injury occurred as a result of activity outside of the work place. However, in cases of constant repeated motion at work or an injured worker did not have previous problems and gradually developed this problem while working.

The injured worker’s treating doctor will likely be supportive.

In certain cases, doctors may have a difficult time identifying whether the job caused the impairment.

In most cases, workers’ comp will cover injuries where it can be demonstrated that work accelerated the progression of an injury or aggravated a condition.
You can recover for mental affliction when it is associated with a physical injury. You may be overwhelmed by not being able to work, having bills stack up, having no source of income and hearing that it is going to take forever to get your workers’ comp claim resolved.

In addition, one isolated event may be enough to cause enough mental stress to cause a problem. For example, if you saw a co-employee lose one of their limbs in a piece of machinery, that may be enough of a shock to prevent you from going back to work around that machinery.

Finally, in Tennessee, you can collect workers’ comp for extraordinary stress in the workplace resulting in mental injuries.

In Tennessee, you can collect for specific occupational diseases, which are spelled out in statutes.

Some occupational diseases naturally flow from a particular occupation. To collect workers’ comp, you’d have to demonstrate that these diseases wouldn’t develop from ordinary life experiences. For example, you could prove that a large number of employees working in a particular field all developed a particular disease.
You don’t have to prove to 100% certainty that your injury was related to the job, only that it’s more probable than not.

Very often, a good caring physician will be able to connect the injury to the job. In many cases, it’s important for your lawyer to explain the standard to your doctor. That way, your doctor won’t fail to connect your injury to work because he wasn’t able to rule out any other causes.


Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Medical Fee Schedule

Tennessee Department of Labor:  Frequently Asked Questions

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We handle personal injury, bankruptcy, divorce, immigration, workers compensation, and social security claims from all across Middle Tennessee, including Music City, Murfreesboro, Franklin, Brentwood, Clarksville, Columbia, Spring Hill, Manchester, McMinnville, Hendersonville, Gallatin, Springfield, Dickson, Fairview, Lebanon, Mount Juliet, Columbia, Shelbyville, Cookeville, Lavergne and Antioch, as well as the counties of Davidson, Williamson, Rutherford, Montgomery, Robertson, Maury, Wilson, Sumner, Cheatham, Dickson, Hickman, Giles, Smith, Trousdale, and Macon.