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New Tennessee law removes disputed worker comp cases from courts

Tennessee's governor recently signed into law a controversial new way of handling workers' compensation cases. Under the old law, courts handled disputed cases. However, a newly created state agency will now decide on the resolution of all these types of workplace injury cases. An administrator appointed by the governor will head the agency.

It will take a year for most of the provisions of the law take effect. Among those requirements is the creation of guidelines for medical treatment and a change to how payments for disabilities are calculated. The vote for the bill in the state legislature was largely along party lines. Moreover, divisions exist among the general public. While supporters of the new law say it will result in a more efficient, certain and equitable system, critics argue that it will end up depriving injured workers of compensation.

To avoid confusion, the new law will only apply to workers who suffer a work-related injury or are diagnosed with one after the date the law takes effect. In any case, an injury at work, whether caused by an accident or an occupational disease, can result in medical and rehabilitation expenses, as well as lost wages.

Although the new law means that in the future people will no longer have disputed claims decided by a court, that is not the case now. Additionally, although a state agency will decide future claims, it will still be advisable for anyone who is claiming workers' compensation benefits to have representation by a lawyer. A workers' compensation lawyer fully understands the law and how to protect an injured worker's rights in the claims process.

Source: The Tennessean, "TN workers' comp cases now subject to new state agency", Duane Marsteller, May 01, 2013

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