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.