2023 Workers’ Compensation Legislative Changes

By Leslie F. Bishop | July 31, 2023

One thing we can be certain of in workers’ compensation cases in Tennessee is changes, and 2023 was no exception.  The changes were effective generally as of July 1, 2023. 

  • Judges now have discretion to award a 25% penalty to an employee whose employer/carrier “unreasonably” fails to provide medical benefits under a settlement or judgment after receiving notice of the obligation to provide the treatment.  This amendment changes “fails in bad faith” to “unreasonably fails.”  A 60-day grace period is issued essentially stating that if the medical treatment is authorized or payment made, then no penalty shall take effect.
  • Judges again have the authority to authorize reasonableness of the employee’s attorney fee, provided that the employee’s attorney fee shall not exceed 20% of the employee’s recovery.  The reasonableness of the employer/carrier’s attorney fee continues to be subject to trial court approval when fees exceed $10,000.  This section was clarified to remove contradictory language from recent case law.
  • The statute has now been updated to allow electronic signatures on a C-32 Standard Medical Report.  Previous requirements required an original signature. 
  • The Uninsured Employer’s Fund (“UEF”) has received increased funding and can now issue benefits of up to $60,000 total to include a $20,000 cap on medical bills, $20,000 cap on temporary disability payments, and a $20,000 cap on death benefits.  This increased the total cap from $40,000 to $60,000. 
  • A judge can award attorney fees when the employer/carrier unreasonably denies a claim or unreasonably fails to timely initiate benefits if the trial court makes a finding that benefits were owed at an Expedited Compensation Hearing.  This amendment changes prior language from “wrongfully” to “unreasonably,” but “unreasonably” is not defined in the statute.  This will sunset again in two years or on June 30, 2025.
  • Payment of death benefits has been significantly changed in that all periodic payments will now be made at 66 2/3% of the employee’s average weekly wage, getting rid of the 50% of the average weekly wage payable only to surviving spouses.  Death benefits will continue to be paid for dependent children up to age twenty-two (22) who are attending post-secondary career or technical education, including a secondary education for technical or other career training.  This amendment recognizes other types of post-secondary education.
  • A firefighter who has a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) by a mental health professional, if certain events occurred within the line of duty, is now presumed to be compensable.  This will occur to firefighters who were diagnosed with PTSD within one (1) year of the firefighter’s final date of employment and is effective on January 1, 2024.

Reach out to us if you have any questions regarding the changes that are taking place in 2023 or January 1, 2024.

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