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Governor Bill Haslam’s Administration’s proposed reform to the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation program is getting heavy attention. A story released by WBIR 10 News stated the governor is considering several changes to the program, including creating a new and independent state agency to handle all the processes of the system.
This new agency, called the Tennessee Division of Workers’ Compensation, would be responsible for handling the processing of incoming claims, as well as appeals going before a state court. This would take all responsibility for the program from the state’s labor department, legislators, and courts. The proposed single entity would create, change, and enforce all regulations regarding workers’ compensation claims throughout Tennessee.
Some other changes being considered include creating guidelines to oversee doctors who diagnose and treat injured workers, and implementing a program to get information to injured workers who do not have an attorney. Also, changes may be made to the definition of an injury and the criteria used to determine if an injury is work-related.
Opponents of the changes say they will impede an injured worker’s right to benefits, while those in favor of the program believe it could save the state millions of dollars.
The Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyers with Hughes and Coleman Injury Lawyers hope any changes that are made result in workers who are hurt on-the-job getting better care, treatment, and benefits.
The Tennessee Supreme Court recently issued a ruling stating that workers who are hired to complete temporary duties have rights to the same Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Benefits as a full-time employee.
Court documents from the case of Timmy Dale Britt v. Dyer’s Employment Agency show that in Sept. 2008, the plaintiff was assigned to work at Mark IV. During his time on the job, he suffered an injury and was later diagnosed with a 4 percent permanent medical impairment as a result of carpal tunnel syndrome he developed while working. His position was later terminated with both companies following the end of the assignment.
The victim filed for Tennessee workers’ compensation benefits, where the court then examined laws that establish limits on benefits of one and one-half times the medical impairment rating, if an injured worker returns to work for the pre-injury employer at a wage equal to or greater than the pre-injury wage or six times the medical impairment rating if the injured worker does not return to work for the pre-injury employer.
The court found no distinguishable difference between a temporary and full-time employee, and awarded the plaintiff six times the medical impairment rating, the same as any other employee would receive under similar circumstances.
The Tennessee Injury Lawyers at the law firm of Hughes and Coleman Injury Lawyers are hopeful the decision in the case will bring the victim a sense of closure.
Controversy is swirling around a report recently released by the Tennessee’s Department of Labor calling for heavy reform of the state’s workers’ compensation system. According to the Memphis Business Journal, Governor Bill Haslam plans to introduce several options with the goal of cutting employer costs and getting workers back on the job more quickly.
One suggestion has been streamlining the process for disputed Tennessee workers’ compensation claims. Currently, when a dispute arises over a claim, it goes through an administrative process that ultimately lands in the judicial system. The report suggests appointing special judges to overhear and have the final say in these cases with the exception of a Tennessee Supreme Court ruling.
The aim is to alleviate some costs associated with the workers compensation coverage employers are forced to carry while boosting economic development. Other suggestions include changing legal definitions of verbiage to limit how wordings can be interpreted.
Opponents say taking the cases out of the court system will harm workers because it’s one of the only ways workers’ rights are protected.
The Tennessee Personal Injury Lawyers with Hughes and Coleman Injury Lawyers believe employees have a right to a safe work environment and that changes like the ones being considered may make it more difficult to receive benefits if you are injured on the job. That is why the firm suggests discussing your legal rights with a qualified attorney if you have been hurt in a work-related accident.
It depends. If you were hurt after June 6, 2011, it is possible to take more money in exchange for no future medical care (as long as TennCare and Medicare coverage is addressed in your settlement). If you were hurt before then and your injury is to a scheduled member worth 200 weeks or more, you can not,. However you may be allowed to take an additional settlement three years after your settlement is approved.
If your doctor has released you with no permanent impairment (0%), you may take a one-time settlement to close any and all future medical care. This is known as a “doubtful & disputed” settlement. For injuries on or after June 6, 2011, this settlement may be for any amount so long as the approving entity finds that the closure is in the “best interests” of the injured worker. For injuries occurring between July 1, 2004 and June 5, 2011, this award will be limited to 50 times the minimum compensation rate for the year of injury (typically between $5,700 and $5,900).