Lawmakers are looking to expand the 2014 reform of the Tennessee workers’ compensation law, which has had a major impact on the state’s injured workers.
A push for another reform is brewing in the General Assembly when it meets early next year. This time, allowing employers to opt out of the state worker’s compensation system and design their own benefits for injured workers is on the table.
The opt-out legislation in Tennessee was introduced earlier this year. It’s rooted in Texas, where companies have had the choice for many years. Last year, Oklahoma adopted the legislation and it’s been proposed in South Carolina.
Sen. Mark Green said he’s listening to companies such as Memphis-based AutoZone Inc. and other Tennessee firms including Brookdale Senior Living Inc. and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc.
Green said the main issue is allowing employers and employees to work together on rehabilitation and returning to work, instead of placing someone into a state-run insurance system.
In the renewed push for the legislation, advocates are working to amend the bill. Changes under consideration include increasing benefits and allowing access to state courts and federal courts for opt-out plans that would be governed by the Employment Retirement Income Security Act law. Allowing injured workers to sue their employers, which isn’t allowed by traditional workers’ compensation, is another option being discussed.
Some oppose the legislation. Insurers of Tennessee, representing insurance agents throughout the state, is lobbying against the legislation.
“It’s sold on the idea that it’s going to save employers a lot of money,” Charles Bidek, chief executive of the association in Nashville, said recently. Bidek said the savings come from reducing benefits or access to the workers’ compensation system. It will cut down on claims, not on injuries, he said.
The Workers’ Compensation Reform Act, which took effect in Tennessee last year, cut disability benefits in some cases by more than 40 percent, raised the bar for proving injuries are work related and diverted claims to new administrative courts from state trial courts.
The state Bureau of Workers Compensation reported in July that workers compensation costs have dropped by 21 percent in the past two years.
A Tennessee attorney told The Commercial Appeal, which ran a story on workers’ comp reform last month, that he settled a case for about $87,000 before reform for a client who had a back injury. Under the reformed law, the attorney estimated the settlement may have been about $22,000.
WHEN SHOULD I HIRE A WORKERS’ COMP ATTORNEY?
If you have been hurt on the job and finding it difficult or need help receiving the compensation that is a part of your rights as an employee, having skilled and knowledgeable work injury attorney on your side can make all the difference. An attorney can take up the fight to hold whoever is responsible for an injury at work accountable in the eyes of the law.
The Law Office of Stanley A. Davis is here to help. Workers’ compensation attorney Stan Davis is prepared to go the distance to get you the compensation you need and deserve. In a free initial consultation, you can discuss the details of your case, receive free attorney advice and get answers for any questions you may have about workers’ comp benefits.