The 2014 Reform of the Tennessee Workers' Compensation System: What Are the Changes?
In July 2014, the state of Tennessee passed a wide reform of the workers’ compensation system to make improvements for state workers. If you employ five or more full-time or part-time workers, you are required by the state to have workers’ compensation coverage. It is understandable that you may have questions regarding this new reform to the system. What exactly are these changes and what do they mean for local business owners? Our staff at Elite Insurance Solutions would like to explain these changes to you to help you understand the new workers’ comp system in Tennessee.
The System Has Become More Streamlined and Dedicated.
An autonomous division, the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) is being created to handle all workers’ comp claims and benefits throughout the entire process. Along with this new division, a new court, Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims, is in place to make the decisions. The DWC Administrator will appoint the judges, mediators, and appeals board; however, the Tennessee Supreme Court remains as the highest court of appeals.
The Reform Provides More Fairness.
Before this reform, close decisions usually favored the injured worker. After this reform, the law will be applied impartially with no favoritism towards the employee or employer.
The Definition of “Injury” Has Been Revised.
According to the Nashville Business Journal, the new definition includes a physical injury by accident, a mental injury, an occupational disease, or a cumulative traumatic condition that arose “primarily” in the scope and course of employment after all other causes have been considered. The “primarily” means that the job contributed to over 50% of the injury.
Employers Now Have Greater Access to Medical Information.
The required employee-signed waiver of the past is no longer necessary for employers to be able to communicate directly with the treating physicians. Employers will also be able to review all medical records related to the treatment of the workers’ comp injury.
Permanent Partial Disability Benefits Will Be Determined Differently.
The reform now considers all injuries and impairments as “body as a whole” injuries. Additionally the maximum number of weeks to receive benefits has increased from 400 to 450 weeks.
A Mandated Ombudsman Program Has Been Created.
This new program will educate, assist, and protect the rights of injured workers, their employers, and others looking to resolve workers’ compensation claims disputes. People who do not have legal counsel will be able to take part in this ombudsman program.
Even though the changes included in this reform are viewed as positive by both employees and employers and will significantly reduce costs, medical inflation continues to increase. A Medical Advisory Committee has also been formed to aid in reducing medical expenses. This committee will consult with the DWC Administrator to create the guidelines, which must be adopted by January 1, 2016, for the diagnosis and treatment of the most commonly occurring workers’ compensation injuries.
Want to talk to one of our agents about this workers’ compensation system reform? Contact Elite Insurance Solutions today to find out how these changes affect you.