Workers’ Compensation Lawyers
Injured workers need medical treatment and a source of income while they recover. Lawsuits can take months or years to resolve. Workers’ compensation provides a means for workers to receive immediate financial relief and free medical treatment without having to prove negligence by the employer.
The Knoxville personal injury attorneys at NST Law have been helping injured employees for over three decades, and we have a thorough understanding of the claims process.
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Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Requirements for Employers
The following employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance at their own expense:
- Employers in the construction business with at least one employee unless specifically exempted
- Employers in the coal mining industry with at least one employee
- All other employers with five or more employees
It is illegal for employers to charge employees for any portion of their workers’ compensation premiums.
What does workers’ compensation cover?
Workers’ compensation provides two categories of benefits for compensable injuries:
- Medical benefits
- Partial wage replacement if your doctor takes you off work
Medical benefits include the following:
- Free medical treatment through an authorized physician for as long as necessary
- Reimbursement for medically necessary emergency treatment
- Payment for travel expenses when the distance from home to medical treatment exceeds fifteen miles
The authorized treating physician is selected by the employee from a panel of three physicians designated by the employer.
Permanent disability benefits provide a lump sum settlement to employees who do not fully recover from their injuries. Employees who are permanently disabled receive an impairment rating, which helps determine their disability award.
There are two types of permanent disability benefits:
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)
- Awarded when the employee is able to return to work but at a reduced capacity
- Permanent Total Disability (PTD)
- Awarded when the injury prevents the employee from working in any capacity
- Continues until social security income becomes available
It is advisable to work with an attorney at any point in the claims process but particularly at this point.
Our workers’ compensation attorneys can draw upon our experience to determine a fair and just settlement amount and negotiate skillfully and aggressively on your behalf. We are also able to thoroughly review any assigned impairment rating given by your physician.
Vocational Rehabilitation’s Next Step Program
The Tennessee Department of Vocational Rehabilitation offers permanently disabled employees job training for a new career. Some types of work may be possible, even with permanent disabilities, with the right training.
This program, known as the Next Step Program, is only available to employees who have received a permanent disability rating through workers’ compensation.
What if my family member was killed on the job?
Family members are entitled to claim the following death benefits in the tragic event that a worker sustains a fatal injury:
- Burial expenses of up to $10,000
- A one-time payment of $20,000 to the estate of the deceased when there are no dependents
- Partial wage replacement if there are dependents
- 66.66 percent of the average weekly wages during the last year of employment if there is a surviving spouse and one or more dependent children
- 50 percent wage replacement for a spouse only
Steps to take if you are injured on the job
If you are injured on the job, it is important to promptly complete the following steps:
- Seek emergency treatment, but only if necessary.
- Report your injury to your supervisor.
- Select a doctor from the employer-provided panel of three doctors.
- Obtain treatment:
- Complete all therapy.
- Follow doctor’s orders.
- Attend all appointments.
- Abide by work restrictions.
Can I sue my employer or my coworker?
Workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy for injured workers against employers, and this includes coworkers. However, you can sue third parties whose negligence contributed to the injury. For example, if you are injured in an automobile accident in a company vehicle, you could file a claim against the other driver or a vehicle parts manufacturer.
Defective equipment often causes injuries, and in these cases, manufacturers could be sued. If the owner of a worksite is not the employer and you are injured because of unsafe premises, the owner could be liable.
Third-party claims can help you receive additional compensation for noneconomic damages such as disfigurement, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.
Can my employer fire me for filing a workers’ compensation claim?
It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against a worker for exercising legal rights, including the right to file a workers’ compensation claim. Retaliation includes discipline and termination. Although you cannot sue the employer for a workplace injury, you do have the right to sue for wrongful termination.
What if my employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance?
Employers with fewer than five employees who are not part of the construction or mining industries have the option to opt-out of workers’ compensation. Since these employers are not protected by workers’ compensation, you have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit against them.
In these cases, you would have to prove the employer’s negligence caused your injuries, and it could take considerably longer to receive your compensation. However, you can receive higher compensation since you will also be able to sue for noneconomic damages such as mental anguish plus punitive damages in some cases.
If the employer was illegally operating without workers’ compensation, injured workers can request benefits through the state’s Uninsured Fund. This fund provides eligible workers with up to $20,000 in medical benefits and up to $20,000 in temporary disability benefits.
What if my claim is denied?
If your claim is denied on the basis that your injury is not compensable (work-related), you have the right to appeal the decision through the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims. If the dispute is related to authorized medical treatment, you can request a utilization review. It is best to allow an attorney to represent you through this process.
How long do I have to file a workers’ compensation claim?
Most work-related injuries must be reported to the employer within 15 days of the injury or the date you knew or should have known about the injury.
Most appeals must be filed within one year of the report of injury if the claim was denied. If the employer voluntarily paid benefits, the Tennessee workers’ compensation statute of limitations is the latter of:
- The date the disability benefits ceased
- The date of the last treatment
Do I need a lawyer to file a workers’ compensation claim?
Experienced workers’ compensation lawyers know how to file successful claims, navigate the appeals process, and calculate reasonable compensation, given your injuries.
The legal team at NST Law has a proven record of success in helping injured victims receive maximum compensation. We have recovered over $2 billion in verdicts, judgments, and settlements on behalf of thousands of deserving clients, including the following:
- $950,000 workers’ compensation settlement for a man who fell 35 feet from a billboard catwalk while on duty
- $1,800,000 for a woman injured by a negligent forklift driver
- $1,500,000 for a woman injured on the job in a car accident
These results are the by-product of our relentless and fervent advocacy on behalf of our clients. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.