Workplace Injuries in the Tennessee Valley

If you are injured on the job, you may expect that the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation program will cover your expenses. But claimants sometimes find their benefits are denied, or the legitimacy of their claim is called into question.

In March 2015, the Supreme Court of Tennessee’s Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel reviewed the case of a man who was denied coverage for surgery. He suffered a back injury at work that necessitated surgery; several years later, his doctor recommended another spinal fusion surgery, after conservative approaches had failed to relieve the man’s chronic pain.

A reviewer for the employer found the surgery was not medically necessary and denied the man’s claim. He appealed that ruling, but the Department of Labor and a trial court each affirmed the finding that his surgery was not necessary. The supreme court special panel, however, disagreed, reversing the trial court’s decision and compelling the employer to cover the cost of the surgery.

That case illustrates just how difficult it can be for injured workers to assert their rights. Especially when you’re in pain, or your mobility is limited because of an injury, pursuing a claim against an employer may seem like too much work. But you should never have to forego necessary medical treatment just because someone refuses to pay for it.

If you’ve been injured at work, call John R. Colvin today at 1-844-629-8594 for a free consultation.

Employer Obligations

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration oversees the enforcement of federal workplace safety laws at businesses nationwide and regularly conducts surprise inspections of businesses to ensure they are in compliance with the law. But it’s not uncommon to find numerous safety violations that put employees at risk of injury.

When a business under OSHA’s jurisdiction reports the death of an employee on the job, OSHA investigates the incident. In 2011, OSHA cited a Memphis employer for 12 safety violations, following an explosion that killed one worker and seriously injured another.

Tennessee also has its own enforcement agency – TOSHA – modeled after the federal OSHA. It may conduct general inspections or “programmed” inspections that look for specific dangers, such as fall hazards or carbon monoxide. In 2013, TOSHA’s programmed inspections of construction companies found:

  • 800 fall hazards, affecting 378 companies
  • An average of 2.1 safety violations per company
  • 5 percent of violations were “serious, repeat, and willful.”

When an employer blatantly disregards safety laws, and an employee is injured as a result, that worker may be able to pursue a claim of negligence against the employer.

In Tennessee, all construction companies must participate in the Workers’ Compensation program, regardless of the number of employees. However, other types of businesses with fewer than five employees are not obligated to pay into the state Workers’ Compensation fund. Employees of such companies therefore must file a claim against their employer if they are seeking compensation for their injuries.

Consequences of Injuries

Medical costs associated with a workplace injury can be hard to predict, because some injuries worsen over time. Especially in instances of occupational diseases, symptoms might not be evident until the disease has reached an advanced state.

Tennessee defines occupational diseases as those “arising out of and in the course of employment” that cause an employee to require medical treatment or cause the employee’s injury or death. Carpal tunnel syndrome, hearing loss, and hypertension could be considered occupational diseases if evidence shows a person’s employment was more than 50 percent to blame for the illness.

Some workplace injuries can result in temporary or permanent disability. If that happens, the injured worker could collect wage-replacement benefits through Workers’ Compensation. However, those benefits do have limits, and when the injured worker is the primary source of a family’s income, wage replacement benefits may be inadequate to cover a family’s current and future expenses.

Someone on Your Side

Tennessee and Northern Alabama Work AttorneyIf you have been injured in a workplace accident, someone who understands your rights can increase your odds of getting the compensation you deserve. We understand those rights, and we know from experience that insurers and employers often look for ways to avoid paying for an injured worker’s damages. Don’t let that happen to you. Fill out our online form – or call us today at 1-844-629-8594 – and get your free consultation.

Licensed to Practice in Tennessee & Alabama