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LEGAL: TN workers’ comp reform promises many employer-friendly changes

Jeff Jones
Wednesday, Feb 5, 2014

In 2013, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted major workers’ compensation changes initiated by Gov. Bill Haslam and supported by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The act, which is titled the “Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Reform Act of 2013,” was signed with the goal of making Tennessee more employer-friendly and more attractive for new business. In order to achieve these goals, the act aims to bring about shorter periods to resolve conflicts, quicker return-to-work for injured workers, more assistance for injured workers, more consistency in results,and fewer obstacles to medical care. The law will apply for injuries on or after July 1.

With the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Reform Act of 2013, the General Assembly intends to benefit Tennessee by changing the business landscape, making existing workers’ compensation law more employer- friendly. It will require a fair and impartial statutory construction that will no longer lean automatically in the injured worker’s favor. Moreover, the administration of workers’ compensation claims will be handled by an entirely separate division within the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, calling for the appointment of an administrator to cultivate the state’s business environment and to create new rules in order to efficiently and justly administer workers’ compensation claims. This revamped administrative structure will include the creation

of a Medical Advisory Committee, Ombudsman program, as well as adjust the requirements for physician panels. With additional benefit calculation changes, such as the new impairment ratings being measured solely on the body as a whole and without reference to pain, the new law promises to significantly alter the way workers’ compensation benefits are determined.

 

Jeffrey G. Jones is a regional managing member for Wimberly Lawson Wright Daves & Jones PLLC. He can be reached at jjones@wimberlylawson.com.


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