Workers’ Comp Lawyer in Memphis
As an employee of your company, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries through your company’s workers’ compensation policy if you are injured in a work-related accident. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance policy that most employers are required to carry specifically for this purpose. The right to use workers’ compensation after you are injured is one of the benefits that you enjoy as an employee alongside your right to overtime pay and your right to take time off for family-related needs through the Family and Medical Leave Act. Other types of workers, such as independent contractors, do not have these rights.
Injuries can happen in any type of workplace. In some work environments, generally work environments that require employees to work with heavy machinery, toxic substances, and perform manual jobs, injuries tend to happen more frequently than work environments where employees are more sedentary.
What Should I Do After an Accident At Work?
Seek medical attention as soon as you can after you are injured. This might mean having a colleague use the on site first aid kit or a trip to the emergency room. In the former situation, get yourself to a doctor within a reasonable period of time after your accident to receive an accurate diagnosis of your injury and begin treatment.
Unlike personal injury claims, there is another step you have to take if you wish to receive a settlement through a workers’ compensation claim. You need to notify your supervisor of your accident within 30 days of your injury’s occurrence or within 30 days of your doctor’s confirmation that your injury was caused by an accident at work. This notification must be in writing. If you do not notify your supervisor of your injury and your intention to seek workers’ compensation, you forfeit your right to receive money through your claim. Your employer is the one who will file your workers’ compensation claim – not you. Communicate your injury and your needs fully with your supervisor to ensure that your claim is handled properly and that it accurately reflects your accident and injury.
After discussing your injury with your supervisor, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to represent your claim. An attorney will protect your interests while your claim is pending and advise you about the settlement you are offered. He or she can also inform you of your rights and help you if you are a victim of bad faith or a violation of employment law. Although it is illegal for a company to terminate an employee for seeking workers’ compensation, it has happened before and it can happen to you. If it does, it is important that you have a knowledgeable attorney who can protect your rights.
The Workers’ Compensation Claim Process
After notifying your supervisor for your accident, your employer will submit your claim to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Workers’ Compensation Division. It must do this within one working day of being notified of your injury. After notifying the Workers’ Compensation Division of your accident, your employer has 14 work days to file any additional forms that go along with your claim. During this time, it also notifies its workers’ compensation coverage provider of the claim.
Once the workers’ compensation provider is made aware of the claim, it determines whether it accepts or denies the claim and notifies your employer of this decision within 15 working days.
Examples of Workplace Injuries
- Exposure to toxic substances;
- Accidents involving industrial machinery;
- Electrical injuries;
- Pinning between large objects; and
- Impact with flying or falling objects.
Which Employers are Required to Carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance?
In Tennessee, nearly all employers are required to purchase workers’ compensation policies. The only exceptions to this requirement is employers that have fewer than five employees and are not in the construction industry. Construction industry employers must purchase workers’ compensation coverage even if they only have one employee. In the construction industry, employers themselves may apply for an exemption from this requirement, but their employees must be covered by workers’ compensation.
How Long Does Workers’ Compensation Coverage Last?
Generally, it lasts until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). This refers to the point at which you no longer need medical treatment. At this point, you might be fully recovered or you might have a permanent impairment and need to take less-stressful job duties for the remainder of your career.
What if I Need Permanent Compensation?
It is possible to receive permanent disability benefits following an injury at work. You will need to work with the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Benefit Review Program to determine an appropriate compensation amount for your lost wages as a result of your injury. These benefits are paid by your employer’s workers’ compensation provider or if your employer is self-insured, your employer.
Temporary vs. Permanent Disability Benefits
If you cannot work for more than seven consecutive days after your accident, you may receive compensation for your lost wages. This compensation can be temporary or permanent.
Temporary disability benefits are further divided into two categories: full and partial.
When an individual is able to continue working, but must have his or her job altered to eliminate physically taxing duties, he or she may qualify for temporary partial disability benefits. Whether the employee may continue working and the restrictions that accompany this are determined by the employee’s physician – not the employee, not his or her attorney, not the Workers’ Compensation Division, and not the company. If an employee does not comply with his or her doctor’s work requirements following a workplace injury, he or she could jeopardize his or her right to collect disability benefits.
Temporary partial disability benefits are calculated by taking the difference between the employee’s normal wage and his or her wage for the lighter workload and determining 66 2/3 percent of this figure. The 66 2/3 percent difference is the amount of money that the employee may receive, which supplements his or her lower wage for the lighter workload. For an employee to receive these benefits, his or her employer must submit Form C-41 to the Workers’ Compensation Division.
Temporary full disability benefits are for employees whose injuries make it impossible for them to work while they recover. An individual’s employer must submit Form C-41 for him or her to receive this type of coverage. The wage compensation that an individual receives through temporary full disability benefits is 2/3 of his or her average weekly wage for the previous 52 weeks that he or she had worked for the employer. If the employee had not yet been with his or her company for 52 weeks when the injury occurred, an appropriate wage compensation amount can be determined through one of the two following methods:
- Taking the average weekly earnings of other employees in the same position at the company over the past 52 weeks; or
- Dividing the employee’s gross earnings since starting with the company by the number of weeks he or she has been there.
Temporary disability benefits do not last forever. This is why they are known as temporary benefits. An individual’s benefits stop once one of the following actions occurs:
- A Benefit Review Conference is held by the Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and a report is filed stating that the employee has recovered; or
- The employee is offered a job offer from his or her employer for a position that pays the same as or more than the position he or she held before being injured. The employee does not have to accept the job offer – as long as an offer is made because the employee is healthy enough to work again, his or her benefits may end.
There are other circumstances that can cause an individual to stop receiving temporary disability payments as well. Examples of these circumstances are as follows:
- The employee refuses to comply with his or her doctor’s orders regarding his or her work duties and schedule;
- The employee makes a full recovery and is released to work without restrictions;
- The employee’s physician finds that the employee has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) and has been fairly compensated;
- The employee refuses to undergo a medical examination or receive treatment; and
- The disability payments are found to have been made in error.
The amount of money an individual may receive per week is capped at a maximum amount determined by when the accident occurred.
Like temporary disability benefits, an individual can receive partial or total permanent disability benefits. These benefits are for individuals who are either unable to work again or must take on less stressful and generally lower-paying work for the rest of their careers because of their injuries.
Individuals who can return to work and thus qualify for permanent partial disability benefits may receive compensation for 66 2/3 of their average weekly wage. Other factors that can influence this amount are the body part injured and when the injury occurred, if the injury occurred before July 1, 2014. This compensation continues until the individual requires and becomes eligible for social security retirement payments.
Permanent total disability payments are available for workers who cannot return to work because of their injuries. Like permanent partial disability benefits, they continue until the individual reaches retirement age.
When an individual is killed in a workplace accident or because of the injuries he or she sustained in the accident, his or her loved ones may seek death benefits to cover their losses resulting from the victim’s death. Like disability benefits, these are not paid by the Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, but by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance provider or the company itself if it is self-insured. If you or a loved one has been harmed in an at work accident, then free free to our Workers Compensation Lawyers in Memphis Tennessee.
The damages that a family member may seek compensation to cover after an accidental death include:
- Funeral and burial expenses. The family may not receive more than $7,500 to cover these expenses; and
- Wage replacement. When an individual dies in a workplace accident, his or her dependents may receive compensation for the loss of his or her financial contributions to the household. For a married victim with no minor children, the victim’s spouse may receive one half of the victim’s average weekly wage for up to 400 weeks. If the victim was married and had one or more dependent children, the family may receive 66 2/3 of the victim’s average weekly pay to cover their losses.
In cases where a victim with no dependents dies in a workplace accident, his or her estate may receive $20,000 in death benefits.
The Workers’ Compensation Court and Appeals Board
A workers’ compensation claim can be rejected for a number of reasons. For individuals whose claims are rejected, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board exists to review decisions made by the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims to ensure that mistakes have not occurred. When the board finds that a mistake has occurred, it has the power to reverse the court’s decision.
Court of Workers’ Compensation
Through legislation passed in 2013, the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims was created as part of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. When a workers’ compensation claim is disputed, this court exists to resolve the dispute fairly, efficiently, and within Tennessee’s laws governing workers’ compensation claims. This is the first stop for disputed workers’ compensation claims. If they cannot be resolved in this court, they move on to the Appeals Board for review.
When a claim is disputed, the parties involved can bring it to the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims. The court hears both parties’ claims, then determines a settlement agreement.
If the parties agree to this settlement, they sign the document and have it filed with the Clerk of the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims to have it assigned to a judge for a settlement approval hearing. The filing fee for this process is $150, to be paid by the employer involved in the dispute within five days of the fee’s assessment by a Workers’ Compensation judge.
If the parties do not agree to the Court’s settlement agreement, they must work with a court-appointed mediation specialist. This specialist issues a Dispute Certification Notice to both parties. It is his or her job during this process to note which elements of the settlement agreement, if any, the parties agree to and which are disputed and must be resolved by the court. Each party has 60 days to file either a Request for an Expedited Hearing if they are dealing with temporary benefits issues or a Request for an Initial Hearing for permanent benefits issues.
Any decision made by a judge in this court becomes final 30 days after the judge enters the Compensation Order unless one of the parties decides to appeal the decision.
Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board
When a decision made in the Court of Workers’ Compensation is appealed, it is moved to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board for a new hearing. This board is comprised of three judges.
Appealing a claim requires the appealing party to file a Compensation Order Notice of Appeal with the board along with a $75 filing fee.
Why Should I Work with a Workers’ Compensation Attorney?
By working with a Memphis Workers’ Compensation Attorney, you are giving your claim a better chance of resulting in an adequate settlement amount for your expenses. Although there is no law that requires you to work with an attorney, choosing to work with one can ensure that you receive all of the benefits you are entitled to receive. In the event that your claim is denied or mishandled, your attorney is there to advocate for you and negotiate on your behalf to help you get the money you deserve.