Tennessee WC Courts Get an Upgrade

gavelTennessee is making some big moves in their workers’ comp legislation system. Coming up in July, the state will change their system to ensure that resolutions are “fairer, faster, and more efficient” says the Nashville Business Journal. They have been operating under a two part system; cases would go through an administrative system or regular trials if they could not be settled in a benefit review committee. Now they are joining many other states and merging the two.

Previously to the change, if there was an issue that could not be solved administratively they were directed to the Tennessee court system and it became a “race” to see who could file first, employee or employer. Whoever filed first could choose their venue so what was already a contentious situation between the two had a possibility to get even more heated. This unified system hopes to make everyone feel like they are starting off on an even level. The state’s Supreme Court will still handle the top level of the appeals process.

Now that race is done away with as there is going to be a specific workers’ comp court system that is separate from the normal Tennessee circuit. It will take the workers’ comp burden off of the normal courts that might not have been as prepared to handle workers’ comp cases. It will also make the litigation process faster, and judges will only see work comp cases so they can gain knowledge and experience with these types of cases.

Another change will place the burden equally on the employee and the employer. Before this new system, the employee was heavily favored in the courts and if there was a seemingly “tied” case, it usually went to the employee. The definition of injury is going to start to include a “primarily” clause that applies to mental injuries, accidents, occupational disease or cumulative trauma disorders. This means that their job and the conditions must have played a substantial role, greater than 50 percent, in their illness or injury.

The system will ensure that an ombudsman is available to employees and employers who are in the midst of resolving claims disputes. It is meant to educate and protect the rights of everybody involved.

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