Workers' Compensation

Larry R. Williams, Jonathan Williams and their staff handle workers' compensation cases throughout Tennessee. The workers' compensation law in Tennessee is set by statute and represents a compromise between employees and employers. Employees who bring workers' compensation claims do not have to prove negligence or fault of an employer for causing their injury; however, employees cannot recover damages for things such as loss of enjoyment of life or pain and suffering.

How Much Time Do I Have To Give Notice To My Employer?

Injured workers must give notice of their injury to the employers. Tenn. Code Annotated S 50-6-201 provides:

Notice of Injury. Every injured employee or such injured employees representative shall immediately upon occurrence of injury or as soon thereafter as is reasonable and practicable, give or cause to be given to the employer who has not actual notice, written notice of the injury, and the employee shall not be entitled to physicians fees or compensation which may have accrued under the provisions of the worker's compensation law from the date of the accident to the giving of such notice, unless it can be shown the employer had actual knowledge of the accident; and no compensation shall be payable under the provisions of the chapter unless such written notice is given to the employer within thirty days (30) after the occurrence of the accident, unless reasonable excuse for failure to give such notice is made to the satisfaction of the tribunal to which the claim for compensation may be presented.

An employee must notify his employer of the accident and the fact that he has suffered an injury. The nature and extent of the employee's injury and the issue of medical causation usually comes to light in the treatment of the employee's injury. Quaker Oats Co. v. Smith, 574 S.W. 2d 45, 48 (Tenn. 1978).

In Continental Insurance v. Dowdy, 560 S.W. 2d 619 (Tenn. 1978), the Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed a trial court award based on actual notice where an employee had told her supervisor that she had "done something" to her arm and that it was "killing her". In Riley v. Aetna Casualty, 729 S.W. 2d 81 (Tenn. 1987), the Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed the trial court finding of actual notice where an employee reported foot pain on several occasions to the employer but did not relate the cause to work. In Riley, a physician later determined the conditions of the employee's work caused the pain and foot injury.

In Osborne v. Burlington Industries, 627 S.W. 2d 757 (Tenn. 1984), a case of gradually occurring injury, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that the statutory notice requirement was satisfied when the employee informed his supervisor of the pain that he was experiencing in his back.

Are all workers' related injuries compensable?

All work related injuries are not compensable. To be compensable, a work injury must arise out of an occur in the course and scope of the employee's employment. An injury arises out of employment if it has a rational, causal connection to the work. Williams v. Tecumseh Products Co., 978 S.W.2d 932, 935 (Tenn. 1998). Although absolute certainty is not required to prove causation, the medical testimony connecting an injury to work-related activity must not be so uncertain or speculative that assigning liability to the employer would be arbitrary or only a mere possibility. Livingston v. Shelby Williams Indus., Inc., 811 S.W.2d 511, 515 (Tenn. 1991). While it is important to have good medical proof in a worker's compensation case, mainly in the form of a deposition from a treating or evaluating physician, Tennessee courts have embraced the complications associated with the convergence of medical science the understanding of laypersons. In such regard, "absolute medical certainty is not required for recovery in a case for workers' compensation." Chapman v. Employers' Ins. Co., 627 S.W.2d 122 (Tenn. 1978). However, any reasonable doubt in this area is to be resolved in favor of the employee. Hall v. Auburntown Industries, Inc., 684 S.W.2d 614 (Tenn. 1985).

How Long Do I have to File Or Bring A Claim for My Work Injury?

A worker's compensation case must be brought within 1 year of the date of injury; however, there are exceptions. While Tenn. Code Ann. S 50-6-203 provides that a claim must be filed with court "within one (1) year after the accident resulting in injury" the running of the statute of limitations is suspended until, by reasonable care and diligence, it is discoverable and apparent that an injury compensable under the workmen's compensation law has been sustained. Ogden v. Matrix Vision of Williamson County, Inc., 838 S.W.2d 528, 530 (Tenn.1992). Furthermore, Tennessee courts have long held that the employee's knowledge for statute of limitations purposes often depends entirely upon the medical advice he receives from a treating physician. In Oliver v. State, the Tennessee Supreme Court held that an employee's statute of limitations did not begin to run until learned from his doctor that would have permanent anatomical change and impairment. Oliver v. State, 762 S.W.2d 562, 565 (Tenn.1988). Tennessee courts have used this same logic in determining that the day the employee is no longer able to perform his work is day the statute of limitations begins. The "last day worked rule" is logically based upon the employee's knowledge of the permanency of the work related injury. Lawson v. Lear Seating Corp., 805 S.W.2d 373 (Tenn. 1991) and its progeny.

What Kind Of Recovery Can I Receive For My Tennessee Workers' Compensation Injury?

Injured employees may be entitled to short term benefits, medical care or reimbursement of medical bills, lump sum payments for the lost ability to perform future work and for any unpaid benefits, and lifetime medical care for the injury. However, every work related injury is not compensable.

Some employees can also be reimbursed for their mileage

Can I Pick My Doctor?

It depends, but maybe if your employer denies you claim. Typically, the employer will provide the employee with a panel of physicians and the employee chooses from the physicians listed.

If I Am Injured By A Third Party While I Am Working, Do I Have An Additional Cause Of Action?

Yes.

Should I Consult With An Attorney Regarding My Claim?

Yes.