Dramatic Reforms to Workers’ Compensation Act
In 2013, the Tennessee Legislature passed dramatic reforms to the Workers’ Compensation Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-101, et seq., which went into effect on July 1, 2014. It would be impossible to provide a full summary of those changes in this space, but here are some of the most significant ones:
- The legislature changed the definition of “injury” to make it more difficult for employees to recover benefits for claims related to the exacerbation of pre-existing conditions, repetitive use injuries and/or occupational diseases. In particular, the reforms require the authorized treating physician to find that the employment contributed more than fifty percent (50%) in causing the injury, considering all causes.
- The legislature has eliminated the extensive list of “scheduled members” (i.e. fingers, upper/lower extremities, etc.) and requires all permanent impairment ratings to be stated to the “body as a whole” which is worth a maximum of four hundred and fifty (450) weeks, up from the prior maximum of four hundred (400) weeks.
- The legislature eliminated the old system of paying permanent disability benefits. Instead of capping employees who returned to their pre-injury employment making the same or greater wage at 1.5 times the impairment rating, all employees receive benefits in the amount of their percent impairment at the time they are placed at MMI. Additional benefits are provided if the employee fails to return to work for any employer and meet certain educational, age or demographic criteria which may result in additional benefits.
- The 2013 Workers’ Compensation Reform Act also removed workers’ compensation claims from the jurisdiction of Tennessee circuit and chancery courts. The Act created the new “Court of Workers’ Compensation” which will be an administrative court under the Department of Labor umbrella. All claims will be tried before the administrative courts and initial appeals will be heard by a newly created appeals panel. Once that process is completed, parties will have the right to a direct appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court.
This is just a small synopsis of some of the most significant changes to Tennessee’s Workers’ Compensation law. For more information please contact any of our attorneys specializing in workers’ compensation. To see our workers’ compensation attorneys please click here.