I Was Injured at Work and Then Suffered Another Injury: Does the Second Injury Apply Under Workers’ Compensation?brownandroberto : March 7, 2019 9:39 am : Employment Law, Workers' Compensation
Injured at Work Under Workers’ Compensation
If you’ve been injured on the job and have been approved for treatment under the Worker’s Compensation statute by your employer, and then you re-injure yourself as a result of the initial injury, you should still receive medical benefits for the second, related injury.
Your Employer Might Try to Deny Your Second Claim
Sometimes employers approve an initial Worker’s Compensation claim but then attempt to deny you when that initial injury causes another injury. For example, say you injure your left shoulder at work and your employer approves that claim. But then, because you’re relying more on your right shoulder, you ultimately injure it as well. Or maybe you hurt your leg at work and then fall at home as a result of the workplace injury. Your employer might wrongfully try to deny the second medical claim.
When your employer denies your claim, they are denying you access to an authorized treating physician. Your employer is essentially keeping you from establishing that your initial injury caused the need for further medical treatment. This premature denial goes against the Tennessee’s Workers’ Compensation Statute.
Tennessee follows the “natural consequences rule” which states, “A subsequent injury, whether in the form of an aggravation of the original injury or a new and distinct injury, is compensable if it is the ‘direct and natural result’ of a compensable injury.” Basically, this means that if you injure yourself as a result of an initial work-related injury, it’s related and should be covered under Worker’s Compensation.
If you have been injured at work, put The Lawyers of Brown & Roberto to work for you today. Give us a call at 865-691-2777 or contact us through our website at www.brownandroberto.com to set up a free consultation.
If you’ve been injured in a car wreck that you were not at fault in or only partially at fault in, you may be able to file a lawsuit, which is a complaint against another party, to receive compensation.
If you agree to settle in a car wreck case, you’re agreeing to give up the possibility of a lawsuit or other action in exchange for an amount of money that is acceptable to you and the other party. This is common in car wreck cases.
- Statute of Limitations
You don’t have forever to file a lawsuit. In Tennessee, starting on the date of your car wreck, you only have one year to file a lawsuit.
- Alternate Dispute Resolution
This is a way to resolve a disagreement such as the amount of money to be paid without going to court. It is often accomplished through arbitration or mediation where a neutral third party, uninterested in the outcome of your case, helps both parties reach an agreement.
The injured party who is filing suit.
The party against whom the plaintiff, or injured party, is filing a claim.
- Car Accident Attorney
An attorney who specializes in car accidents can help you get compensation for any property damage that resulted from the accident, along with any injuries you suffered as a result of the car accident.
- Car Accident Attorney Fees
Fees for car accident cases are contingency based. That means you do not need any money up front for The Lawyers of Brown & Roberto to start working for you. It also means that we don’t get paid unless you do.
If you’ve been injured in a car wreck, the last thing you want to do is try to sort through a bunch of legal jargon to figure out what your next step should be. At The Lawyers of Brown & Roberto, we would be happy to help you navigate the system and take the work off of you so you can focus on recovering and receiving the compensation you are entitled to. Please give us a call at 865-691-2777 or contact us through our website at www.brownandroberto.com to set up a free consultation.
Tennessee has one of the highest denial rates for disability applicants in the nation. With the pressure on doctors to review applications as quickly as possible, mistakes are bound to happen.
What Should I Do Next?
While the system can seem overwhelming and unfair, the good news is that an experienced attorney can help you get the benefits you are owed. Put our experience to work for you. Let us help you get the benefits you’re entitled to.
You may be wondering if you can bring an Uninsured Motorist claim when your vehicle is damaged by road debris.
School bus safety is always a concern, especially now that winter break is almost over with kids going back to school next week. It’s important to know and understand the law about stopping for school buses so you can help keep kids safe and avoid getting a ticket.
Under Tennessee law, you are required to stop when school bus lights are flashing, even if you’re traveling in the opposite direction.
There have been an increasing number of complaints from parents and other bystanders, especially on social media, who witness drivers who don’t stop for buses picking up or dropping off children.
In Tennessee, passing a stopped school bus can get you a fine of anywhere from $250 to $1,000.
If you need legal advice, you deserve serious lawyers who know how to win. Call 865-691-2777 or visit brownandroberto.com today.
Winter is officially here, and with it comes the potential for more severe weather in East Tennessee. While snow days can be filled with hot cocoa, holiday movies, and snow angels, they also bring the potential for increased car wrecks. Snow, freezing rain, sleet, and ice can all lead to car accidents. Below are a few reminders to help you avoid being involved in an accident this holiday season.
Obviously the easiest way to avoid a car wreck is to stay off the roads. We know this is not always possible, but try to plan ahead and avoid any unnecessary trips out in inclement winter weather. In East Tennessee fashion, if the meteorologists are calling for snow, go ahead and head to the grocery store to stock up on essentials. Then if you must get out, go straight to your destination and back home. Not only does this reduce your risk of an accident, it also frees up the roads for emergency responders to be able to help those in need.
Clean Your Windshield
Driving with impaired visibility is never a good idea; especially in winter weather! If you’ve got snow or ice on your windshield, either start your car a few minutes before you need to leave to give your car time to defrost or keep an ice scraper handy to remove all snow and ice before you start driving.
Speed limits are for optimal driving conditions. The Oak Ridge Police Department says, “Even though some roads appear relatively clear, they could still be slick. It doesn’t mean you should drive faster or even go the speed limit. Slow down!” Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination; it’s better to show up a few minutes late than to get in a car wreck.
Know Your Vehicle
Be familiar with your vehicle; some models feature a “snow” button to help improve handling in inclement weather. Make sure you have good tires and that your car is up-to-date on its regular maintenance.
If you or a loved one is involved in a car accident this season, it is important to speak with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. Contact The Lawyers of Brown & Roberto today by calling 865-691-2777 or by clicking here.
Workers’ Compensation Settlement Too Low? Four Ways to Know.
Four Ways Your Workers’ Compensation Settlement May Not Be All You Are Entitled To Under The Law:
1. Has Workers’ Compensation calculated your pay wrong?
Whether it is for temporary benefits or your final disability award, how your pay is calculated is very important. Workers’ Compensation is paid out based on your “Compensation Rate.” This is sixty-six and two-thirds percent of your Average Weekly Wage in the 52 weeks prior to your injury. This calculation can get complicated if you did not work all 52 weeks with that employer. If your rate was calculated wrong, you may be entitled to back pay for the arrearage and more money in your final award. If you believe you aren’t receiving everything you are entitled to, please contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer who can help you check and make sure the calculations have been done properly.
2. After Being Released From the Doctor, Were You Returned to Work?
If you were not returned to full employment after being released by your doctor, you may be entitled to additional benefits. This can get complicated so the best way to make sure you are getting everything you are entitled to is to review your case with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. If your injury was so bad that you cannot return to your pre-employment job, there can be more benefits available to you then you might have been initially offered. When you have a serious injury and you can’t return to work, you need to have your case reviewed by a workers’ compensation lawyer immediately.
3. Was The Right Impairment Rating Used To Calculate My Award?
The easiest way to have a low offer is by using the wrong impairment rating. It’s important to double check and make sure the right impairment was used, but it’s also important to make sure that a rating is challenged if it isn’t right. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can spot when the impairment rating can be challenged to allow you to receive all the benefits you are entitled to under the law.
4. I Have An Impairment Rating, But I’m Still Treating?
If you have multiple injuries from the same work accident that require different doctors, you need to complete all your treatment before settling you case. For instance, if you have both a physical and a psychological injury from the same work accident; both doctors will give you a rating. Again, if this is a serious injury, you need an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to review your case before you agree to settle.
If you have a serious work injury, you need serious lawyers who know how to win on your side. Call 691-2777 today for your free consultation to be sure you are getting all you are entitled to under the law.
Is This A Good Offer?
Is this a good offer?, is one of the most common questions we get at the Lawyers of Brown and Roberto after a car accident. When you think about it, it’s easy to see why. Most of us aren’t familiar with dealing with an insurance company and when you’ve been injured and your medical bills are piling up, you don’t have time to waist talking with an adjuster. The best advice is to call an experienced lawyer and review your case as soon as possible to avoid any time limits that could negatively impact your case. But, how do you know… is this a good offer?
Five Reasons The Insurance Company Is Not Offering You Enough:
1. Many insurance companies make a small initial offer until a lawsuit is actually filed.
While their first offer is probably not their final offer, some insurance companies will not offer you what they should until you have hired an attorney and filed a lawsuit. The Lawyers of Brown and Roberto will fight to make sure you are receiving all the money that you are entitled to.
2. You may not have provided the insurance company adequate documentation of your injuries.
Insurance adjusters are looking for very specific information. It is important to package that information right so that the pertinent facts stand out. Our attorneys and staff will presented your case to the insurance company in a way that gets the results you are looking for as quickly as possible.
3. The adjuster does not know about all of the damages that you are claiming.
The easiest way to be sure you aren’t being offered enough is to not include all of your damages. Did you miss time from work? Did you have out of pocket expenses? Not knowing what to ask for will affect what you get for your injuries. The Lawyers of Brown and Roberto will review your case with you and make sure that your losses are properly documented so you can get the recovery you are entitled to under the law.
4. The adjuster may assume that your medical bills have been “written off.”
Many adjusters are devaluing claims because the injured party is not represented or based on the Tennessee Supreme Court West v. Shelby Co. Healthcare Corp. This decision reduces the amount of medical damages to the amount that your insurance actually paid and not the full bill. It is important to understand this case and how to handle it to be sure that you are getting all you are entitled to under the law.
5. The adjuster may have offered you the policy limits of their policy.
Insurance is a contract and that contract only covers up to a defined amount. In order to receive a policy limit offer, you have to know the proper way to ask for it under the law and what to do to trigger uninsured motorist coverage.
When you are dealing with serious injuries with significant medical bills, you need to call an experienced car accident lawyer who can help you maneuver through a complicated claim. Call 691-2777 for a free consultation today.
Injured At Work, What Are Five Things You Should Do Before Calling A Lawyer
Tennessee’s Workers’ Compensation Law has gone through significant changes since 2014 and now it’s far more difficult to prove your case if you’ve been injured at work than ever before. Those who have been injured at work, may need an attorney to guide them through the process and it’s normal to have a lot of questions. Remember that the insurance company isn’t looking out for your best interest, that’s up to you.
When you have been injured at work, what are five things that you should do before calling a lawyer? Keep in mind that the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation statute is complicated and if you have questions you should speak with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer, but before you make that call, here are five things to do:
1. Report your work injury to your supervisor as soon as possible:
Tenn. Code Ann. Section 50-6-201 gives you only 15 days to provide notice to your Employer of the injury or your claim is no longer payable. In other words, if you do not promptly notify your Employer of the injury, you could lose out on any and all workers’ compensation benefits. Your attorney cannot undue a problem of notice to the Employer.
2. Keep a copy of all correspondence that you have had a with the workers’ compensation insurance company:
Your attorney will need to know who to contact about your benefits including their address, phone number, and the claim number assigned to your injury.
3. Collect your wage information:
Workers’ compensation benefits are based upon your average weekly wage for the 52 weeks prior to your injury. If you have a pay stub or tax information to provide to your attorney, that will help him or her determine your average weekly wage.
4. Be prepared to discuss how the accident causing your injury occurred and where you have treated for your injury.
The insurance company may ask for a recorded statement after you report your injury. If you have been injured at work, and the adjuster wants to take your statement, it’s a good idea to speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer before your statement is taken.
5. Request a written panel of physicians to treat your work injury:
You are entitled to a panel of physicians, so don’t let the insurance company steer you towards a particular physician. It’s a very good idea to review the physicians list with a workers’ compensation lawyer before making your selection. Bring a copy of that panel to your attorney.
If you have been injured at work, the Lawyers of Brown & Roberto are here to help.
Car Accidents Are More Likely in the Rain:
With heavy precipitation expected in the Knoxville, you might be wondering if car accidents are more likely in the rain than on a snowy day? Surprisingly, National Highway Safety Administration studies have shown that 46% of weather related car accidents occur when driving in the rain, while only 17% when it is snowing. One reason for this may be that, at least here in East Tennessee, winter weather is at least somewhat uncommon. So when winter weather is present, we tend to avoid going out. However, car accidents are more likely in the rain because rain is a relatively common occurrence so we don’t typically think twice about it. This leads to an important reason why car accidents are more likely in the rain, many drivers don’t make the appropriate adjustments in their driving style to properly handle potentially hazardous road conditions.
Remember that roads are slickest at the start of a rain storm and wet pavement has less traction for your tires to grip. Here are some driving tips to avoid trouble driving in the rain.
Car Accidents Are More Likely In The Rain, so Take It Slow:
Some estimates indicate that wet roads have about one-third less traction than dry roads. With reduced traction, we all need to slow down and resist the urge to get home quickly because of the weather as this could result in a car accident. So, reduce your speed as is appropriate for the road conditions.
Car Accidents Are More Likely In The Rain, so Give Other Drivers More Space:
Remember with reduced traction, you will not be able to stop as quickly as you would have on a dry surface. As such, adjust to the conditions and allow more space between your car and those in front of you. This will be somewhat dependent on the traffic intensity, but try to give yourself a lane you know you can escape quickly into if traffic stops suddenly ahead of you.
Car Accidents Are More Likely In The Rain, so Let Your Technology Do Its Job:
If you have ABS or an anti-lock braking system, remember that this technology is designed to help you maintain steering control when braking hard on a slick surface. Apply the break with steady consistent pressure and continue to steer. If hydroplaning occurs gently take your foot off the gas and continue to look where you want to go, and try to avoid steering until your front tires regain traction.
Even though car accidents are more likely in the rain, we hope with these safe driving tips you can avoid a car accident. But, If you are injured in a car accident by another driver’s carelessness, you need to take it seriously and call The Lawyers of Brown and Roberto, serious lawyers who know how to win.
Driving In Snow Isn’t Something We Deal With Often In Tennessee:
Let’s face it, we are blessed to live in a region that doesn’t typically see significant winter weather. The downside of that is that many of us are unprepared to deal with driving in snow or ice simply because it’s not something we are very familiar with. This morning we all looked out the window to see that our region is seeing its first snowfall and here are some helpful tips to keep you and your family safe while driving in snow today and throughout the winter.
Slow Down When Driving In Snow
Although it’s easy to think, I want to get home and out of this weather quickly, that isn’t the best approach with slick roadways. But, when we say slow down, that doesn’t just mean ease up on the gas pedal, it also means slow down your movements on the steering wheel. Remember that ice or snow covered roads provide less friction for your tires so quick movements, as well as sudden increase and decreases in speed can result in a loss of control.
Keep Moving When Driving In Snow
It’s best to try to avoid coming to a full stop if driving conditions allow, another reason why taking it slow is the best approach. With less friction available for your tires to grip onto the road it can be difficult to get started when driving in snow, so take it slow and try to time turns and keep from stopping if you can. One way to do this is to put your car in a lower gear, this will slow down the speed of your car without applying the brake.
Braking When Driving In Snow
No matter how slow you take it you are likely going to have to apply the brake at some point. Apply your brake slowly and smoothly, the same way you are steering in a calm and easy manner. If you feel your brake pedal shudder, that’s ok, it’s the ABS so don’t back off, let your braking system do its job. However, if you start to lose control and the car starts to spin, turn the wheel in the direction of the slide. Now when you don’t drive in these conditions that often, this isn’t your first instinct but turn into the slide not away from it. In many newer cars with stability control, if you steer into the turn and avoid your brake you will regain control.
In the end, the best advice is to stay home if you don’t need to go out when road conditions are bad. Remember that even if weather conditions are a significant factor in a car accident, a jury may still find a driver at fault so take it slow and be safe out there.
While hacked email is certainly in the news today, you may be wondering what steps you can take to keep your email messages private. It’s almost common place these days to hear of another data breach where an unauthorized user gains access to private information, including private email. Although it may seem as if there is nothing you can do, here are two steps you can take to help keep your email and other data private.
- Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls. One of the most common ways that a data thief will gain access to your private data is to ask you for it. If you receive an unsolicited phone call from someone claiming to be with your bank or your credit card company, make sure the person on the other end of the line is who they say they are. If you get a call like this, you could tell the caller that you are in the middle of something right now, ask for their name and a phone number to call back later. After you get their contact information, call whoever the caller said they were with and double check that the call originated from your bank or credit card company. Remember, don’t give out your information until you know who you are speaking with.
- Be suspicious of email attachments. If you receive an email that you won something or that there is a problem with your bank account or your tax return, don’t open any attachments. These institutions don’t typically send out an email with questions like this and the attachment may be a malicious program that will open up your computer or cell phone to whoever sent the message. Again, double check to make sure the sender is who they say they are. Remember, the IRS doesn’t send email messages and it’s unlikely that your bank would either. Even message from someone you know with unsolicited attachments may be compromised, so it’s better to pick up the phone and make sure they sent you a message than to risk your private information.
It is important to be cautious about your private information and who you give it out to. But it is equally important to avoid opening suspicious email attachments as these can both result in a breach of your private data.
DIY Social Security Disability
Every year thousands of applications for Social Security Disability are filed and many of those applications don’t need the assistance of an attorney or a representative in order to be successful. However, several things must be considered when setting out to handle your own Social Security Disability case.
When Should I Apply for Social Security Disability?
You should consider applying when your physical and or mental conditions significantly impact your ability to engage in normal activities of daily living and this has lasted for a full year. The full year here is important, because if you are applying for either Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income the condition must last at least one year or you don’t qualify for benefits. However, if your medical records support that the condition will last at least 12 months, you may still be entitled to benefits even if the condition hasn’t yet lasted at least one year.
What if I am Still Working?
Working will be considered as evidence that you are not disabled. So in general, if you are working, you will not be considered disabled. However, if you are working and earning less than a specific monthly amount, known as Substantial Gainful Activity, than that work may not count against you and you could still receive benefits. In 2016, the earnings for Substantial Gainful Activity are a gross monthly income of $1,130. By gross income, we are looking for the total amount you earned before taxes or anything else is taken out of your check. Keep in mind, if you are earning more than the level of Substantial Gainful Activity, you will not be eligible for benefits.
Where Do I go to Apply?
You can apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov or by calling 1-800-772-1213. When you start the application online you can save your progress and return to the application as time permits, but please keep in mind that your application needs to be as completely filled out with as much detail as possible to have the best chance of a favorable outcome.
When I Apply, What Will I Need?
During the application process you will need the following: Your date and place of birth, as well as your social security number. You will also need the name, social security number, and date of birth of your current and any former spouses. Have the dates of marriage and dates of divorce or death of any former spouses as well. The names and dates of birth of any of your minor children will be required. Also, you will need your bank’s Routing Transit Number and your account number where you want your benefits electronically deposited.
You’re not done yet, you will also need the name, address, and phone number of someone who knows about your medical conditions and can assist with your application. At this point in the process having detail about your medical conditions is important too. So have a list of the names, addresses, phone numbers of your doctors. As well as your patient ID number and the dates of treatment. Be sure to include any medicines you have been prescribed and which doctor prescribed them to you and the dates of any medical tests you have been sent for like an MRI or other diagnostic screening.
Almost there! You will also need information about the work you have performed over the last 15 years. Have a list of your employers this year and last and how much you earned. If you served in the military, have your dates of service available. Also, be able to list up to 5 jobs you have had over the last 15 years. If you received workers’ compensation benefits during this period or you plan to apply for these benefits you will need to include that also.
Will I Have to Submit Any Documents?
You may be asked to provide a birth certificate or proof of U.S. citizenship, discharge papers from the military, some tax records, and any Workers’ Compensation awards. Another very important series of documents will be critical at this state as well, your medical records. Be sure to include all medical records including test results, MRI reports, doctor notes or dictation.
Ok! I Submitted My Application, What’s Next?
After your application is submitted, you will receive notice that it has been received either electronically or via mail. Your application will be reviewed and if more information is needed, you will be contacted. Then a decision will be mailed out to you. Generally, you can expect a decision on your application in approximately 30 to 90 days.
Wait A Minute! My Application Was Denied, What Do I Do Now?
If your application was denied, don’t get discouraged and give up. Perhaps as many as 60% or more of all initial applications are denied. There can be many reasons why your application was denied, maybe the medical evidence you submitted wasn’t given appropriate consideration or perhaps some evidence wasn’t properly submitted. No matter what the case, you have 60 days to after you receive your initial denial to request reconsideration of your claim.
After Initial Denial Should I Get a Lawyer?
Up to this point in the process, it is completely reasonable to handle your own application and of course you can continue to represent yourself through the reconsideration process and ultimately the hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. However, for many applicants, getting an experience Social Security Lawyer involved at this point makes sense. As you move forward following the initial denial, you don’t have another chance and will need to make sure that all the evidence you need to submit has been submitted properly. Also, an experienced Social Security Lawyer will meet with you in person at your initial consultation to review the best path forward for a successful hearing, which may include a follow up with your treating doctors. A few weeks before your hearing, an experienced Social Security Lawyer will meet with you again to get you ready to testify at your hearing as the best evidence will be your testimony.
If you’d like a free consultation and review of your Social Security Disability case, call at 865-691-2777 and see what serious lawyers can do for you!
After A Car Accident: Time Is Not On Your Side
It happens when we least expect it, you are driving around taking care of your busy life and all of a sudden…you are hit by a careless driver. Now, after a car accident, you are injured and your car is damaged. After getting back from your doctor, you get a phone call and it’s the insurance company for the driver that hit you. They are quick to offer you a settlement on your property damage, but when you mention your injuries they say that can’t accept responsibility until they complete their investigation. Over the next few months, you call the adjuster for an update and you don’t get a return call, or when you do you are told that the investigation is not yet complete.
We have heard this exact same story time and again, and there is a very good reason why. Remember that the adjuster represents the insurance company for the driver that caused your injuries and they aren’t in any hurry to pay for your medical bills. In fact, if they can drag out your claim long enough you might not have a claim to pursue anymore thanks to a law that bars recovery unless action is taken within a specific period of time called the statute of limitations. Under TCA 28-3-104, “an action for injuries to the person shall be commenced within one year after the cause of action accrued.” This means that there is a one-year statute of limitations for injuries you sustain in a car accident.
Dragging out your claim for more than one year isn’t the only thing to worry about. By just waiting more than a few weeks to seek treatment for your injuries, you could be limiting your recovery. For one thing, not seeking medical treatment when you need it isn’t smart because you may need a doctor’s attention. But, also delaying your care can affect the valuation of a claim by an insurance company or by a jury. Any delay in seeking treatment, no matter what the circumstance, could be seen as an indication that you don’t have an injury. That’s why we recommend seeking medical treatment only when you actually need it and without delay.
Recovery for car accident injuries is complex and speaking with an experienced car accident attorney is the only way to be sure that you aren’t’ running out of time to act and that you are getting everything you are entitled to under Tennessee law.
What does Tennessee Law Require of Amusement Rides and Their Operators?
Amusement rides, whether in a fixed location or assembled temporarily, are a fun part of Summertime in Tennessee. However, in light of the recent tragedies in Kansas City and closer to home in Greene County, many are asking what is required of amusement rides and their operators under Tennessee law.
In our daily lives we are all required under the law to exercise the same degree of care that a reasonable person would in a similar circumstance. However, some activities are held to a higher degree of care than others because of the type of activity performed and sometimes by inviting the public to participate. Under Tennessee law an amusement ride operator is held to the highest standard of care. This means that an amusement ride operator must be more careful than a reasonable person in the design, construction, maintenance, inspection, and repair of the ride. The operator must act with an abundance of care for the safety of his or her patrons and thoughtfully consider the consequences to those patrons. If an amusement ride operator does not meet this standard, the operator may be liable for any resulting injuries.
However, under Tennessee law if an amusement ride operator acts in reckless disregard for the safety of its patrons or their acts or omission reveal an indifference to the resulting consequences, they may also be subject to an award of damages beyond the actual harm caused to the patron. These damages are called punitive damages and are intended to punish or deter future wrongdoing. So, if an operator had actual notice of a danger to his or her patrons and thereafter riders were injured, The Tennessee Supreme Court has found that punitive damages are appropriate.
There have been recent changes to Tennessee’s regulations regarding amusement ride inspections and permitting. Effective on July 1, 2016, several provisions of Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 68 and Chapters 121 and 122 were removed or altered. The bill can be found at http://share.tn.gov/sos/acts/109/pub/pc0815.pdf. Tennessee authorities do not conduct inspections of amusement rides. Rather, amusement ride operators are required to have a “qualified” inspector inspect the amusement device at least once annually to qualify that the device meets American Society of Testing Materials standards.
No one wants to see any injuries, serious or otherwise, as a result of accidents on amusement rides. We hope this article assists the reader in better understanding Tennessee law and the responsibilities amusement ride operators owe their patrons.
Last week the internet went wild with a new free to play app called Pokémon Go. In fact, the game is such a hit that less than a week after its release, the app became the top grossing app on iTunes. When using the app, a player walks around their actual “real” environment and through their smart phone will see a variety of animated creatures that they receive points for catching. As a result of this app, you may have seen and if not, may start to see, children and even some adults walking around our neighborhoods and streets with their attention fixed on their phones even more than usual.
Several concerns have been raised regarding the app as it could be used to draw people into unsafe situations or at the very least is so immersive and distracting as it may lead to accidents. As the app is so new, there are no statistics yet regarding the effect on drivers. But, we do know that in 2014, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that involved a distracted driver. (See http://www.distraction.gov/stats-research-laws/facts-and-statistics.html) According to one government study, distracted driving is considered “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.”
We all know that distractions that can lead to serious injuries in car accidents, but these distractions aren’t limited to just the use of a smart phone when using an app or texting. Common distractions include: eating, drinking, grooming, reading, adjusting the radio or CD player, or using a navigation device. Did you know that the average time a user’s eyes are off the road while texting is five seconds? Five seconds doesn’t seem like a long time, but while traveling at 55 miles per hour you will travel the length of a football field. Would any of us consider blindfolding a driver for five seconds? Let’s all consider that the next time we think about using our electronic devices while driving.
It’s important that we all commit to not being distracted drivers. The Lawyers of Brown and Roberto have seen an increase in injuries due to distracted drivers over the past few years and these accidents are for the most part preventable if we all focus on the road in front of us. Save that last text until the car is in park, our friends and neighbors we share the roads with will be happy we did.
You worked all your life but when your physical or mental condition had gotten to the point where you could no longer work, you applied for Social Security Disability. But, once you were awarded your benefits are they safe from further review by the Social Security Administration? The answer is no. The Social Security Administration is required by law to review the current medical condition of all those who are receiving disability benefits to make sure a qualifying disability still exists. This means the Administration is required to make sure that the medical condition which the Administrative Law Judge found prevents you from working is still present and would still prevent you from working or substantial gainful activity.
How often does the Social Security Administration review the qualifying disabilities of its current beneficiaries? Well, the answer depends on the nature and severity of your medical condition and whether or not the Administrative Law Judge expects your condition to improve. If you are expected to improve, your benefits can be reviewed as early as 6 to 18 months from the date you became disabled. If improvement of your condition is considered possible, then a review is typically performed about every three years. However, if your condition is not expected to improve, your qualifying disability is likely to be reviewed only every 7 years. For more information, see: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10068.pdf
When the Social Security Administration reviews your qualifying disability, they will typically review your medical records over the past 12 months. This review will consider any changes in your condition and will also look into any new health problems that have emerged. Remember that if you receive notice that your benefits are being stopped because a review has determined that you condition has improved to the point where you can work, you only have 60 days to appeal that decision and should immediately discuss your situation with an attorney experienced in handling Social Security Disability claims.
Also be aware that you must notify the Social Security Administration in writing within 10 days of the letter notifying you that your benefits will stop that you want your benefits to continue while your appeal is considered. However, if you elect to continue to receive your benefits and your appeal is unsuccessful, you will owe the Social Security Administration back the money you were paid since receiving the letter that your benefits were stopped. You can request a waiver ( https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ssa-632.pdf) to avoid paying back the benefits you received so long as you made your appeal in “good faith.” This typically means that you cooperated with Social Security in providing medical records or requested information concerning your medical condition and treatment.
The best advice to avoid this situation is to consistently and regularly continue to see your physician regarding your medical condition following your award. That way if your award is reviewed, the Administration will see that your condition has continued and through the medical notes will have evidence as to whether or not it has improved.
It’s 2016 and we have the world at our fingertips. According to comScore, an estimated 187 million Americans now own a smart phone, which represents approximately 77% of the population. Wi-fi is readily available at seemingly every turn and you can use Google to find information on virtually any topic.
When someone has been injured in a car accident, they often look to the internet for answers. Many people wonder what their next step should be or how to pick up the pieces after an injury. There are even a fair number of websites and ebooks that offer information on handling your own personal injury case, all without consulting an attorney.
While taking a “DIY” approach to your next home improvement project may be a good idea, attempting to coordinate the details of your car accident can not only be challenging, it can be costly. Personal injury cases are often complex and individuals quickly discover that dealing with insurance companies can be exhausting and unpleasant.
Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that 2.3 million car accidents resulting in injuries occur every year. Since accidents rarely affect just one person, it’s important to consider everyone who is impacted by your accident: you, your family and your employer, for instance. The simple fact is that every injury case is unique and most require the advice of a competent, responsive attorney, so that life can return to normal as quickly as possible.
Despite this, there are a significant number of individuals who don’t seek the advice of an attorney after an accident. Why is this? It all comes down to three main concerns, which we call “The 3 C’s.”
The 3 C’s:
Concern: “I don’t have the money to hire an attorney.”
Reality: We don’t get paid unless you do. Fees for car accident cases are contingency based. That means you do not need any money up front for The Lawyers of Brown & Roberto to start working for you. We understand that dealing with the aftermath of an accident can be very difficult. When you’ve been out of work and hospital bills are piling up, the thought of another expense is overwhelming. But if you’ve been injured, you need the guidance of a knowledgeable attorney who will fight for you. With more than 40 years of experience and over $45 million recovered for our clients, we are happy to discuss your case and answer any questions you have. You can even try us risk free for 30 days when you take advantage of our Serious Lawyer Guarantee.
Concern: “Will I be able to reach my attorney when I have a question?”
Reality: We are here for you. The physical and emotional toll of a serious accident can be significant. We understand what you are going through, and we strive to provide responsive and attentive service to all of our clients. When you hire us, we get to work immediately by assigning a Client Relationship Specialist to your case. Your CRS will provide regular updates and answer any questions you have along the way.
3. Customer Service
Concern: “I’ve already been through a lot with my accident, will I have a good experience with my attorney?”
Reality: We all want to be treated well and we expect a lot from those we trust to provide services for us. At The Lawyers of Brown and Roberto, we believe that should be true for your lawyer as well. To help guide our efforts on behalf of our clients, we have created our Serious Lawyer Bill of Rights for our clients.
As our client:
You have the right to get the most money for your case as quickly as possible.
You have the right to only pay us when we get money for you.
You have the right to competent aggressive representation aimed at achieving your goals for your case.
You have the right to have your questions answered promptly and to have regular updates on our progress with your case.
You have the right to exceptional service and for our service to exceed your expectations.
We are committed to providing you with the best possible experience and the fastest recoveries available under Tennessee law.
What Our Clients Are Saying:
Jeff and Charlotte put us to work for them, here’s what they have to say:
We never charge a fee for your initial consultation about your injury. We are happy to discuss your case with you, to answer your questions and advise you on your best course of action. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation. Call (865) 691-2777 or use our convenient ONLINE FORM.
Most adults recognize the value and importance of a will, but according to Forbes, over 50% of Americans don’t have one. This is a startling statistic in light of how this could negatively impact your family and their future.
Having a will is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family. Not only can a will protect your spouse, children, and assets, it also details your final wishes, making your passing less difficult for your family.
Top 5 Reasons to Have an Updated Will:
#1: Your Children.
A will allows you to specify who should take care of your minor children. Absent a will, the courts will choose from family members or select a state-appointed guardian on your behalf. Having a will allows you to appoint the person you want to raise your children. A will also enables you to allocate funds for their important future milestones like a college education.
#2: Your Assets.
A will is a legally-binding document that details how you would like your estate to be handled upon your death. If you die without a will, there is no guarantee that your intended desires will be carried out. An updated will also minimizes the potential occurrence of any family squabbles that may arise as it details the “who, what, and when” of your final wishes.Appointing an executor is equally important. Executors make sure all your final affairs are in order, including paying off bills and notifying the bank and other business establishments. Because executors play the biggest role in the administration of your estate, you’ll want to be sure to appoint someone who is honest, trustworthy, and organized.
#3: Your Family.
Death is difficult enough for families without adding confusion to the mix. A properly written will helps make your wishes clear. You can specify details of your funeral and other final wishes, which can infinitely diminish any potential stress for your surviving family.
#4: Your Legacy.
What issues do you care about? What charities matter to you most? A will allows you to map out your final wishes in terms of charitable giving. The ability to make final charitable gifts is a good reason to have a will because it allows your legacy to live on and reflect your personal values and interests.
#5: Your Peace of Mind.
Procrastination and an unwillingness to accept death as part of life are common reasons for not having a will. But regardless of your net worth, having a plan in place to provide for your family is absolutely essential. Don’t wait until an unexpected death or disability occurs to begin thinking about putting a will together. Avoid the added stress on your family and meet with one of our experienced attorneys to start planning now.
Schedule a Consultation Today
We administer estates and handle litigation related to estates such as will contests. Call 865-691-2777 to set up an initial consultation to discuss your Wills and Powers of Attorney, or reach us through our convenient ONLINE FORM for more information about our practice.
Your Digital Data In A Car Accident
With all of the talk today about cell phone data and whether or not Apple should be compelled to open cell phones in criminal investigations, many have questions about their data in a civil case, like a car accident. Firm Partner, Andrew Roberto, sat down with WVLT yesterday to discuss the role digital data can play in a civil case. Watch the WVLT interview here.
Ten years ago we never saw cell phone data being requested in discovery or for that matter social media postings. However, today this has become a fairly regular discovery request in civil cases. As technology changes so will the requests made for discovery in civil cases including personal injury cases like car accidents. Where we typically see requests in car accidents for cell phone data, it is to see if a phone was in use at the time of an accident. We haven’t seen any cases so far where data from fitness tracking aps has been requested in discovery, but as that technology becomes more widely used it is likely that it could become more attractive in discovery. Any request for discovery could be ordered by a Court if the information contained is not likely to be available by any other means, so data in fitness tracking aps could conceivably be discoverable.
In general, the parties in a civil case can obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action or if it relates to a claimed defense that one party is employing. Any party in a civil matter may be able to resist discovery of electronically stored information from sources that are identified as not reasonably accessible because of undue burden or cost. Despite this, the Court could order such discovery if it is shown that the likely benefit of the proposed discovery outweighs the likely burden or expense. The Court would also look to see if the discovery sought could be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive.
UT Title Nine Lawsuit in the News: Understanding Title IX Lawsuits
Six plaintiffs filed a lawsuit this week against the University of Tennessee (UT) alleging hostile environment discrimination by UT against women. May are asking, what is this UT Title Nine lawsuit all about? In particular the lawsuit alleges two theories of this discrimination:
1) (UT exhibited) deliberate indifference and clearly unreasonable acts and omissions that created a hostile sexual environment to female students before a sexual assault on a student by a fellow student by conduct and policies making a student more vulnerable to sexual assault itself; and 2) (UT exhibited) deliberate indifference and a clearly unreasonable response after a sexual assault that causes a student to endure additional harassment.
The purpose of this article is to explain Title Nine and inform the reader as to when a Title Nine, or a Title IX, case exists.
What is Title Nine?
Most people think of Title Nine it relates to the distribution of college athletic scholarships among the sexes. Contrary to common belief Title Nine does not require an equal number of scholarships between men and women. Instead, scholarships must be substantially proportionate to their participation rates in athletic programs. In other words, if 60 percent of an institution’s collegiate athletes are male, the total amount of scholarships going to male athletes should be approximately 60 percent of the financial aid dollars the institution awards.
Title Nine effects much more than scholarships. Title Nine states that: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Therefore, any education program which accepts Federal funds falls under Title Nine. Such programs include K-12 education, postsecondary education, and various forms of private education if that institution is taking financial assistance.
What is Title Nine Discrimination and/or Title Nine Sexual Harassment?
Title Nine applies to discrimination in academic admissions, athletics, academic and extra-curricular activities. Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination because sexual harassment creates barriers to educational opportunity. After facing harassment a student may, for example, decide not to pursue a particular degree or, even worse, drop out of college.
Sexual harassment can come in two forms: (1) quid pro quo harassment and (2) hostile environment harassment. Quid pro quo means “this for that” harassment. An example is a teacher offering to trade a positive grade in exchange for sex from a student. Hostile environment is what was alleged in the UT lawsuit and described above.
In order to prove a Title Nine sexual harassment claim, you must prove that the institution is deliberately indifferent to known acts of sexual harassment that are so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it deprives the student of access to educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school. The “deliberate indifference” standard will be key in the UT case.
What does this mean for UT?
It is important to remember that the six plaintiffs must first prove that their allegations are true and that these allegations rise to the level of “deliberate indifference.” If they are successful, this could be a large award. The plaintiffs are seeking damages for emotional distress, tuition, attorneys’ fees, and more. Because Title Nine is linked with financial assistance, the Federal government can revoke assistance to the University after Title nine violations. As with all litigation, we will have to wait and see if the plaintiffs can prove their allegations.
Click here to watch a link from attorney Timothy A. Roberto’s interview regarding Title Nine. For more information, please see our previous post regarding general advice on handling sexual harassment in the work place.
We all were troubled when we heard the news yesterday that a Knox County School bus was involved in an accident near Dutchtown Road in Knoxville, TN. Several of the children on the bus were taken to area hospitals to treat their injuries. All of us remember the tragic school bus accident in December of 2014, that resulted in the deaths of two students and a teacher. As more details emerge regarding this accident, it appears that all of the students involved have been treated and released and let’s be sure to keep the students and their families in our thoughts and prayers as they recover.
There are many questions that come up when we consider how school bus accidents are treated under Tennessee law. A carrier of passengers, such as a school bus, is considered a common carrier under Tennessee law. A common carrier has a duty to exercise the utmost care and skill which very prudent and skillful people would use for their protection. In contrast, most drivers on the road are held to a standard of ordinary care. However, a bus driver is held to a standard of extraordinary care.
If, for example, a bus driver is found to have committed even the slightest deviation of care or negligence in an accident, the bus company is liable to compensate every passenger aboard for their injuries and resulting damages. Common carriers in Tennessee must provide the highest degree of care for the safety of the passengers aboard and must exercise the most extraordinary care to provide safe conveyance throughout their travel. Under Tennessee law, this high standard applies to getting on and off the vehicle as well as when the vehicle is transporting passengers.
No one wants to see students injured in a school bus accident. We hope this article assists the reader in better understanding Tennessee law and the care the law requires a common carrier to take with regard to its passengers.
Being responsive to our client’s is so important to us, that we have a Client Bill of Rights to keep our lawyers and staff focused on our goal to provide exceptional service for our clients. We thought about what we’d expect from our lawyer, and from that list created our Client Bill of Rights.
- We believe that you have the right to get the most money for your case as quickly as possible. We don’t clown around: we get to work fast to get you the maximum recovery you are entitled to under the law.
- We believe that you’ve been through enough following a car accident and not having money for a lawyer shouldn’t keep you from getting all you are entitled to under the law. That’s why we believe you have the right to pay us only when we get money for you.
- We believe that our focus should be on achieving your goals for your case, not the other way around. Our lawyers provide competent aggressive representation and we work hard to give our clients regular updates on our progress.
- We believe you have the right to an attorney that delivers responsive service and addresses your questions and concerns in a timely manner. That’s why we assign one of our relationship specialists to your case from the moment you become our client.
- We believe that lawyers should provide the same exceptional service that we all have come to expect from other businesses. The Lawyers of Brown and Roberto work hard every day to exceed our client’s expectations with the responsive and competent service we provide.
Call us today for our Serious Lawyer Guarantee and see what Serious Lawyers can do for you!
If you think about it everything we buy these days from goods to services comes with a guarantee. Why do businesses offer a guarantee? Typically, guarantees let us as consumers know that we can feel confident in the goods or services we purchase because if we aren’t we know we can get our money back. Why can’t you expect that kind of guarantee from your lawyer too?
When you retain the services of a lawyer, your attorney is entitled to a portion of the recovery even if you, the client, terminates that lawyer’s service for you on your case. This is called quantum merit, which is legal term for the attorney getting paid his or her fees for some or all of the work they’ve done even if you aren’t satisfied and that lawyer no longer represents you.
So Why a Serious Lawyer Guarantee? Because, the Lawyers of Brown and Roberto are focused on providing excellent customer service for our clients and we are so confident that you will appreciate the service we provide that if you aren’t satisfied within the first thirty days we start working for you, you can come and pick up your file and you owe us nothing. That’s right…we will waive our quantum merit if you aren’t satisfied with our service within the first thirty days we start working for you!
The Lawyers of Brown and Roberto want you to feel confident in the choice you have made when you trust us with your accident or disability case. That’s why we offer our serious lawyer guarantee. You can try us out for thirty days risk free, if you aren’t satisfied within the first thirty days we start working for you, you owe us nothing. That’s free advice, risk free, so you can feel confident that you have made the right choice for you and your case.
Winter Driving Tips
With winter weather in the forecast, let’s review some winter driving tips. As you know, winter weather brings with it some additional challenges for traveling safely. In case you are involved in an accident or even stuck in the traffic behind one here are some tips to be prepared for delays:
- Purchase a car charger for your cell phone.
- Consider downloading an app like Waze that alerts you to weather and traffic conditions on your route.
- Pack a kit with a warm blanket, six pack of water, comfortable shoes, flashlight and energy bars.
- Check your spare tire for leaks and put a set of jumper cables in the trunk.
- If you’re traveling long distances, check in with loved ones as you leave and the midpoint of your trip.
- Pack your medications.
- Have your vehicle serviced regularly.
- Update your contact list to include your emergency contacts and physicians.
- Watch your local news before you head out the door. Things like black ice may not be evident unless you know to look for it.
- Renew your road assistance membership.
Make your safety on the road and others your top priority with our winter driving tips. When winter weather is a concern consider the conditions of your entire route before heading out the door. If you are involved in an auto accident and need legal assistance, contact The Lawyers of Brown & Roberto. We are ready to assist you!
In Tennessee, victims in car accidents and other personal injury cases have up to one year to file a suit against the responsible parties, and often it takes a significant part of that year to recover from injuries, meet with an attorney, prepare the case, and submit the papers to the court. Nonetheless, we have put together five important steps you can take after an accident to improve your odds of a recovery.
These five important steps after a car accident should be taken as quickly after an accident as possible:
Call the police after a car accident:
Calling the police to the scene of the accident is important for a variety of reasons. The police can secure the scene and ensure that injured individuals can be treated. The police will generally investigate an accident and issue tickets or citations if one or more driver has broken the law leading to the accident. A police officer who observes the accident scene can be an important impartial witness to establish how an accident occurred. Furthermore, if the police have not been called and there is no police report, insurers and other defendants are likely to question the severity of the accident or even whether an accident actually occurred. While a police report can be issued later, having police on the scene often strengthens your claims.
Seek medical attention after a car accident:
The majority of recovery in a car accident or other personal injury case is for medical bills and related pain and suffering. It is nearly impossible to establish a personal injury claim without seeing a doctor. If you are experiencing any new pain or discomfort following a car accident, you are encouraged to have a medical professional evaluate any possible injuries. While you do not have to be taken from the scene in an ambulance, you should do so if the paramedics recommend it. Otherwise, try to see a doctor within 24-48 hours of the accident. If you wait longer to seek medical attention, insurance companies and attorneys will start to question the severity of the injuries and whether or not they are related to the car accident.
Take pictures and/or video of the scene after a car accident:
While it is possible that the police or others will take pictures of the accident scene, it is best if you or someone on your behalf can take pictures of the scene. Even if you cannot get pictures of the scene while the cars are still present, it may be helpful to get pictures of the scene as it appeared at the time of the accident since construction or other conditions may change by the time you contact an attorney or your case goes to trial. Also take pictures of any injuries, as depictions of cuts, bruises, or other injuries will strengthen your claims.
Find witnesses after a car accident:
If you are able to do so, get the name and contact information of anyone who witnessed the accident. Witnesses are not necessary for recovery, but anyone who can corroborate your version of events strengthens your case.
Record your experience after a car accident:
As quickly as possible after the accident, record everything you remember about the accident, including what happened just before and just after the wreck. If it is easier, record yourself talking about the accident. Encourage any witnesses to do the same. Recorded recollections made soon after the accident can help you remember what happened months later in depositions or trial.
Rain: A Significant Factor In Car Accidents
As East Tennessee prepares for another wet weekend, we look at how rain leads to car accidents. Inclement weather is present during 17% of fatal crashes, 20% of injury crashes, and 24% of property-damage-only crashes. Eleven percent of all accidents occur during rain, and seventeen percent occur while there are slick roadways (these numbers overlap).
Rainy weather and wet pavement reduces tire traction, visibility distance, and traffic predictability. Slower traffic may lead to increased congestion and delays, including disrupting timing for traffic signals. These issues are exacerbated when roadways become submerged. Flooding can lead to roads becoming impassable and also leads to debris flowing onto roadways.
There are a number of ways to decrease your likelihood of having a car accident in inclement weather. When driving in the rain or on slick roads, decrease speed and increase following distances to avoid collisions. Improve your visibility by using headlights and windshield wipers. Listen to traffic reports to avoid congested or closed roads, and turn around if you encounter flooding. Do not use cruise control, as this can make it more difficult to respond to changing conditions and can also cause your car to accelerate if you hydroplane or lose traction. Driving in inclement weather also requires greater attention than driving in ideal conditions, so take even more care to stay alert and avoid distractions.
In preparation for rain and slick roads, please check your windshield wipers, headlights, and tire tread to ensure that your car is best suited for these challenging driving conditions.
If you do find yourself involved in an accident during inclement weather, leave your lights on and try to get out of the roadway. Remain in your car if it is safe to do so, otherwise leave the roadway and maximize your visibility to avoid further collisions. It may take police and other emergency responders longer to reach you during inclement weather.
On September 16th, a Kentucky man in a stolen vehicle led the Tennessee Highway Patrol in a Roane County police chase before jumping out of the car and attempting to run away. This past Sunday night, a young man led police in a car chase through Anderson, Knox, Blount, Sevier, and Cocke Counties, damaging at least one police cruiser. On Monday, another man in a stolen vehicle led police in a brief car chase through Sevierville before hitting another vehicle, which then hit two more vehicles. This accident led to injuries for three individuals not involved in the pursuit.
Car chases involving individuals fleeing from law enforcement can easily result in accidents, property damage, and injuries. If you and/or your property are injured as the result of such a police chase, you may find it difficult to determine who is legally responsible to pay for any medical or repair bills. The individual fleeing the police is committing a crime and is general responsible for any injuries or property damage he or she may cause during the chase, even if he or she did not directly impact the injured individuals or damaged property (such as when the police hit a car or property while in pursuit or if another driver swerves to avoid the fleeing driver and causes injury or property damage). The government has some legal immunity in these circumstances but can be held liable in certain situations if the law enforcement officers are determined to have acted negligently or recklessly during the pursuit. Other drivers could also be found liable if they have acted negligently or recklessly in response to the car chase leading to injury or property damage. In the situations where the car is stolen, there are even limited situations where the owners of the cars may be liable.
Even if one or more of these parties is determined not to be liable for injuries or property damage resulting from the car chase, each such party could be sued by an injured party. It is important to review your insurance policies to determine the extent you would be covered if you caused an accident trying to avoid a fleeing car, if your car were hit by a fleeing driver and caused injury or damages to a third party, or if your car were stolen and later involved in a car chase that led to injuries or damages.
It is also possible that the fleeing driver may have no insurance or insufficient insurance to cover medical or repair bills resulting from a car chase. The fleeing driver’s assets may also be insufficient to cover these bills. For this reason, it is important to have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as part of your own car insurance policy. If you have this coverage, you may be able to recover damages up to the policy limits to cover medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, or property damage. Without such coverage, you may be unable to recover for medical bills and other damages even after liability is determined.
It’s been a little more than a year since the State of Tennessee introduced sweeping changes to its workers’ compensation law and to the way workers’ compensation claims are evaluated and paid. We’ve now had some time to gauge the impact that those changes have had on Tennesseans who have been injured at work. Listed below are the three main changes in Tennessee’s workers’ comp law along with their impact on workers injured after July 1, 2014.
- Impairment ratings are set based on how the injury affects the body as a whole. Under the old law, work injuries were evaluated on the impact that they had on a single body part, like a finger, an arm, or a leg. Under the new law, however, injuries are evaluated on how they impact the entire body. As a result, impairment ratings under the new law are typically lower. On the positive side, the period for compensation was increased from 400 weeks to 450 weeks. So a worker judged to have a 10% impairment rating would be due benefits for 10% of 450 weeks, or 45 weeks.
- The benefit review process has changed. Under the old law, an injured worker could file a request for a Benefit Review Conference at any time, which would preserve their claim by satisfying the statute of limitations. In order to preserve your rights under the new law, you must file a Petition for Benefit Determination. This petition can only be filed at specific times, so it’s important to review your case with an experienced workers’ comp attorney to ensure that the Statute of Limitations doesn’t keep you from receiving the full recovery that you are entitled to under the law.
- There is no judicial review for injured workers. Under the old law, workers’ compensation claims were handled by the Tennessee Department of Labor. However, if you were not satisfied with the results of the process, you could take the matter to trial in Chancery or Circuit Court. Under the new law, injured workers have no legal recourse outside the Department of Labor. Workers’ compensation claims are handled entirely through the internal structure of the DOL, though certain cases may eventually be properly appealed to the State Supreme Court.
The Impact on Injured Workers
The combined impact of these changes is simple. It is now much more difficult for injured workers to be successful with their claims. If you’ve been injured on the job, now, more than ever, you need an experienced attorney to help you through the process, to ensure that you receive all of the benefits to which you are entitled under the law.
On August 18, 2015, a group calling itself Impact Team made good on its promise to release a huge cache of customer data stolen from AshleyMadison.com, a website for people looking to cheat on their spouses that claims to have 37 million members. Since then, it has been reported that as many as 15,000 Federal employees used their Federal email addresses to obtain Ashley Madison accounts. This prompted an article by the Washington Post, Can Federal Workers be Fired for Adultery? That article discusses the holes in Federal policies which protect these Federal employees from termination.
Putting aside the issues of Federal employees generally having greater employment protections than private employees, what if you, as a private employee in Tennessee, feel that you have been wrongfully discharged for your decisions made outside of work? Though we have yet to receive a call from someone outed in the Ashley Madison hack, we receive calls daily from those that believe they have been wrongfully discharged. Reasons stated are generally more innocent, such as reporting late for work. But could someone in Tennessee be fired for adultery?
The general rule in Tennessee is that you can be fired for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all. In other words, you are an employee at-will. But there are countless exceptions detailed below:
- You cannot be fired or discriminated against in employment based upon your gender, race, religion, age over 40, national origin, or disability. Such examples violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Tennessee Human Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Under Tennessee law, you cannot be retaliated against solely for asserting your right to benefits under the Workers’ Compensation statutes.
- The Tennessee Public Protection Act (Tennessee’s “whistleblower statute”) states that “[n]o employee shall be discharged or terminated solely for refusing to participate in, or for refusing to remain silent about, illegal activities.”
- Employees are also protected from retaliation under the False Claims Act and False Medicaid Clams Act for reporting Medicare, Medicaid or TennCare fraud. [See Bright vs. MMS Knoxville, Inc.]
As shown above, there are numerous exceptions to the at-will doctrine in this State. Some exceptions may surprise you. For example, under legislation passed in 2015 which amended Tennessee’s “Guns in Trunks” law, a lawful gun carry permit holder cannot be terminated solely for storing a weapon in his/her vehicle at work.
What about your private life?
In the list of exceptions above, you will not find an exception for decisions that you make in your private life. Some private life decisions, however, may fall under other exceptions. For example, your employer cannot terminate you for your decision to get pregnant. Pregnancy discrimination falls under discrimination based upon sex under the Civil Rights Act and the Tennessee Human Rights Act.
Your employer may also have policies in place which limit workplace relationships. In general, your employer can do this as well. However, an employer better apply any workplace relationship policy equally between men and women or they risk a charge of sex discrimination.
What can you do?
Obviously, there are some seemingly private life/sex life decisions that could lead to a viable lawsuit for wrongful termination. However, without any obvious exception to the at-will doctrine, it is clear that a Tennessee employer may lawfully fire an employee found in the Ashley Madison hack.
If, after reading about the exceptions to Tennessee’s at will-doctrine, you believe that you have been a victim of wrongful termination, wrongful discharge, or retaliatory discharge, contact an attorney at The Lawyers of Brown and Roberto today.