Advocates did not have the votes to pass an opt-out plan last year, but the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation and its allies plan to return this spring.
The state legislature substantially reworked the law in 2013, and the Texas-based group hopes to capitalize on the spirit of reform to pass even more pro-business reforms this year. The ARAWC has specifically targeted red states in the southeast to be the first dominoes to fall in a nationwide movement towards a voluntary workers’ compensation system. Currently, Tennessee businesses are required to carry no-fault insurance that provides cash benefits to injured workers. Battle lines between workers’ groups and the ARAWC and its ilk are also forming in neighboring Georgia.
Other items on the legislature’s agenda include dealing with an unexpected $375 million budget surplus, along with possible changes to housing and Medicaid laws.
Workers’ Compensation in Tennessee
The voluntary system in Texas allows companies to either subscribe to workers’ compensation or obtain private insurance to protect injured workers; for companies that opt out, some traditional tort defenses, like contributory negligence, are either limited or unavailable. Nevertheless, injured workers must prove that their employers were responsible for their injuries, which is not the case in workers’ compensation. Furthermore, in an opt-out system, fewer subscribers mean less revenue, which means less compensation for victims.
In Tennessee, the workers’ compensation system provides cash benefits for out-of-pocket expenses that are related to a:
- Trauma Injuries: The majority of workers’ compensation injuries fall into this category, which includes slip and falls, motor vehicle collisions, and other sudden, unexpected events.
- Occupational Disease: These conditions, like asbestos exposure, joint pain, and repetitive stress disorder, develop over the course of more than one shift.
Injured workers are entitled to cash compensation for their out-of-pocket expenses, like lost wages and medical bills. The legislature reduced prescription drug coverage in 2013, but it is still available in most cases.
Given the shrinking pool of money available, adjusters are more eager than ever to deny fair compensation to victims if at all possible. An aggressive and experienced workers’ compensation attorney levels the playing field.
Suing Outside Workers’ Compensation
Many injured workers are entitled to additional compensation for their non-economic losses, like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment in life. Such a lawsuit is possible if the facts involve:
- A defective product;
- Extreme recklessness on behalf of the employer; or
- A negligent co-worker.
When suing outside of workers’ compensation, the normal rules apply. Victims must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant breached the duty of reasonable care and the breach caused the plaintiff’s injury.
Important time deadlines apply in a workers’ compensation case, so if you were injured on the job, call an assertive Memphis attorney today. Lawyers do not charge upfront legal fees in workers’ compensation cases.