Tennessee Construction Accident Lawsuit

May 13, 2014 by Jim Higgins

Recently a widow filed a multimillion dollar wrongful death lawsuit here in Tennessee after her husband was killed in a construction accident. I was recently interviewed about this case. Construction accident cases always create complex legal issues. There tends to be a lot of finger pointing and the Tennessee Workers Compensation Law shields many of the employers. You can watch my interview on the topic below:


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Tennessee Legislature Appears More Concerned about Insurance Companies than TN Workers

March 7, 2013 by Jim Higgins

A glimpse into the true feeling of the anit-worker Tennessee legislature came to light this week. While speaking to what was believe to be lobbyist or constitutes a representative was heard saying that he was going to "ram" the new Tennessee Workers Compensation Bill through his committee. You can read more about the statement and watch the video here. This is a sad day when a representative is more concerned about getting a new workers compensation bill pushed through instead of really considering the impact of the bill. So lets look at what this bill is going to do that the legislature is not willing to consider:

EXPAND THE SIZE OF TENNESSEE GOVERNMENT AND TAXPAYER SPENDING ON WC CLAIMS.

THE BILL

CREATES A BRAND NEW WC AGENCY

CREATES A NEW WC CZAR TO OVERSEE ALL WC CLAIMS

CREATES A NEW WC COURT WITH NEW WC JUDGES

PREVENTS OUR CURRENT JUDGES AND COURT SYSTEM FROM MAKING WC DECISIONS

THE WC CZAR GETS TO CHOOSE ALL WC JUDGES AND REVIEW ALL WC DECISIONS


THE CREATION OF THE NEW AGENCY AND WC COURT

SHIFTS COST OF HANDLING WC CLAIMS TO TAXPAYERS

SUCH COSTS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN PAID BY INSURERS


CUTS BENEFITS TO ALL INJURED WORKERS

THE PROPOSED WC BILL:

CUTS PAYMENTS TO INJURED WORKERS WHO CAN RETURN TO WORK BY ONE-THIRD. THESE CUTS, ALONG WITH CUTS IN 2008, MEAN AN INJURED WORKER WHO GOES BACK TO WORK COLLECTS 60% LESS THAN IN 2007.

DRASTICALLY CUTS PAYMENTS TO WORKERS WHO ARE SO INJURED THEY CANNOT GO BACK TO WORK. CHANGES IN 2004 AND 2008 ALREADY CUT THESE BENEFITS BY 25%-40%.

BUSINESSES AND INSURANCE COMPANIES HAVE SAVED COUNTLESS MILLIONS WHILE INJURED WORKERS CONTINUE TO HAVE ALL BENEFITS REDUCED

WHY? BECAUSE THEY TOLD THE GOVERNOR THEY WANT TO PAY LESS?


ENCOURAGE EMPLOYERS NOT TO OFFER INJURED WORKERS THEIR JOBS BACK

UNDER CURRENT WC LAW, WORKERS WHO ARE INJURED AND GET BETTER RECEIVE ADDITIONAL BENEFITS IF THE EMPLOYER DOES NOT OFFER THEM THEIR JOB BACK

THE BILL WOULD MAKE IT CHEAPER FOR EMPLOYERS TO SIMPLY TELL INJURED WORKERS THEY CANNOT RETURN TO THEIR JOBS

THIS WILL INCREASE NOT DECREASE THE JOBLESS RATE AS EMPLOYERS DECIDE ANY INJURED EMPLOYEE IS A LIABILITY – NO MATTER HIS OR HER EMPLOYMENT RECORD

THIS WILL ALSO SHIFT WORKERS This will also shift workers out of the WC system and into

DECREASES WORKPLACE SAFETY

FOR 100 YEARS OUR WC SYSTEM HAS ENCOURAGED EMPLOYERS TO CREATE SAFE WORKPLACES

BY REDUCING INJUIRES THE COSTS WC INSURANCE AND LOST WORK TIME IS REDUCED

THE BILL REDUCES WC BENEFITS SO MUCH THAT THERE WILL BE LESS INCENTIVE FOR COMPANIES TO PROMOTE WORKPLACE SAFETY

REDUCED OR ELIMINATES THE INDEPENDENT JUDGMENT OF YOUR DOCTOR

THE BILL CALLS FOR THE WC CZAR AND AGENCY STAFF TO SET MEDICAL TREATMENT GUIDELINES WHICH

DETERMINE WHAT INJUIRES ARE WORK RELATED

THE ALLOWABLE TREATMENT FOR EACH INJURY INCLUDING THE NUMBER OF THERAPY VISITS, THE TYPE OF SURGERY, THE TYPES OF MEDICATIONS, ETC.

THE SAME LEGISLATURE THAT RAILED AGAINST OBAMACARE FOR REDUCING PHYSICIAN JUDGMENT AND RATIONING MEDICAL TREATMENT HAS NO PROBLEM ALLOWING A NEW WC AGENCY DO THE SAME THING FOR INJURED CITIZENS


THE BILL INCREASES THE BURDEN ON TENNESSEE TAXPAYERS BY:

EXPANDING TENNESSEE GOVERNMENT THROUGH THE CREATION OF A NEW WORKERS’ COMPENSATION DIVISION

FORCING MANY INJURED WORKERS OUT OF THE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION SYSTEM AND ONTO TENNCARE, MEDICARE, SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY AND WELFARE.

INCREASES DELAYS AND LITIGATION COSTS FOR INJURED WORKERS’ CLAIMS

LIMITS YOUR ABILITY TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY AND TO HAVE YOUR CASE REVIEWED BY AN JUDGE

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CORPORATE WELFARE COMING TO TENNESSEE VIA WORKERS COMPENSATION REFORM

February 6, 2013 by Jim Higgins

Our workers compensation system was established to help people get back to work and provide reasonable financial help to injured workers who suffer from life changing injuries. It simply ensures necessary medical treatment and a modest recovery to help offset loss of future wages. It does not make anyone rich, but it is simply a safety net. Unfortunately, it appears our Legislature is about take away this benefit from the hard working men and women of Tennessee.

Despite the modest recovery currently provided under our system, the Tennessee Legislature has decided it is in the best interest of our state to drastically cut the benefits of injured workers. In reality, this will do nothing but hurt the working men and women of Tennessee and provide corporate welfare to our businesses. Insurance companies and self-insured business will reap the financial benefit of paying less money to injured workers for the same injury. Specifically, under the current law an injured worker is only entitled to recover for their injury if it leaves him with a permanent disability that impacts his ability to earn a living. If this occurs, a court can consider how the injury will adversely affect the worker’s earnings and attempt to help with that loss. One great aspect of the current law is that it recognizes that each case is different and the court can assess each case on its individual merits. For example, if I injured my back I would receive very little if anything under the current system as it would probably not impact my income. However, a construction worker would receive a greater, but still limited, amount as a back injury would significantly reduce his or her income.

Under the current proposed changes, all injured workers will receive the same drastically reduced amount for their injury with almost no consideration for the impact any disability will have on their ability to earn a living. The court will not be able to consider independent factors based upon the individual circumstances of each case. All workers will basically be lumped together and, if they receive anything, it will be a modest fixed amount based upon an impairment assessed by a doctor selected specifically by the employer or their insurance company. It is very unlikely that this will come close to covering the losses sustained by a majority of the disabled workers. So what will be the impact of this new proposed system? In short, workers become more disposable. Factories lose financial incentive to ensure a safe working environment. The Tennessee taxpayers and government social security and disability will have to help support our workers who can no longer support themselves. All of this is being done in the name of being more “Business Friendly”.

I would strongly encourage all Tennesseans to contact their legislature to obtain more information on this Tennessee Workers’ Compensation “Reform”. Let them know that there must be a balance between protecting both business interests and our workers.

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Tennessee Worker's Compensation Reform is Looming. Employees Beware

October 18, 2012 by Jim Higgins

Governor Haslam and the Tennessee Legislature have vowed to overhaul the Tennessee Workers Compensation System. They claim that our system is too costly. So the solution to reduce the costs is to cut benefits to injured workers. This race to cut benefits will result in costs to the state and families that should concern us all.

Under the prior administration there has already been one large workers compensation reform. As a result of these reforms injured workers are now often left with only nominal compensation for their injuries. It is important to note that an injured worker will receive no money unless they have permanent injury. Also, the money is only given to help make up for the loss of income the employee will have because of the injury. It is not there to make an Tennessee injured employe rich, it is there to allow them to survive. So what happens when these benefits are cut even further. It will likely leave people unable to work to be forced to rely upon help from the government. So what is the real costs of this "reform".

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Titan Settles Tennessee Workers Compensation Case

September 11, 2012 by Jim Higgins

There seems to be a common perception that Tennessee Workmen's Compensation cases involve only factory workers or truck drivers. Although, that is a significant portion of the cases due to the inherent dangerous nature of those jobs, there are many other types of work comp cases out there. One recent example involves the workers compensation claim of Tennessee Titan, Kevin Mawae.

Kevin Mawae was a center for the titans. He had outstanding seasons in 2008 and 2009. Unfortunately, these seasons also took a toll on his body. Specifically, he sustained permanent injuries to his shoulders, elbows, wrists, right thumb and lower back. However, Mr. Mawae is considered an employee of the Tennessee Titans and like almost all employees he is automatically covered by the Tennessee Workers Compensation Act. As a result, he settled his case for $114,000.00 and life time medical treatment.

The amount of this settlement says a few things about our system. To begin, I believe it is clear that the amount of money he received in no way begins to make up for the financial losses he will sustain as result of his injuries. Nor will this amount make up for the life of pain that this man is destined to endure. The reason for this is a result of the strict limitation our legislatures have placed on the amount of recover someone can obtain for a Tennessee work comp injury. The placed these limits by claiming it would make Tennessee more attractive to business because the costs of worker comp will be lower. Unfortunately, it is the injured workers how pay the price. However, it is important to note that he will receive medical treatment for these work injuries for the rest of his life. That is one great benefit of our system.

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HOW THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT AND FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT CAN PROTECT INJURED TENNESSEE WORKERS

August 10, 2012 by Jim Higgins

Almost all of my workers compensation clients ask: “What are my employment rights now that I have been injured at work?” Although the answer to this question varies from case to case, we often find protections for our client outside of the Tennessee Workers Compensation Act. The most common protections are found in the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act.

The Americans’ with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a Federal Act that prevents an employer from discriminating against any employee with a disability. As such, if a work injury leaves you with a physical disability, but you can still perform the essential functions of your job with limited or no accommodations, your job should be protected. The law requires your employer to make “reasonable” accommodations.
Unfortunately, the ADA does not cover all employees. To be covered, the employer must have fifteen or more people employed throughout the year. Additionally, the employee must have an impairment or perceived impairment that substantially limits or impairs his or her ability to perform a major life activity. Major life activities include things like walking, breathing, standing, thinking, etc. Finally, the employee must be able perform all of the essential functions of the job either without any accommodation or with a “reasonable” accommodation.
The ADA can help protect an injured employee both during medical treatment and after medical treatment for an injury has completed.
During treatment. The ADA may provide protection to an injured worker with restrictions who can still perform his or her regular job with, or without, any reasonable accommodation.
After Treatment. A worker who is released to work with restrictions after completing medical treatment is protected so long as he or she is capable of performing all of the essential functions of the job. If other positions open up – and the disabled employee is qualified to do the open position – then the ADA may provide a legal obligation to the employer to offer that alternative position.
As to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an employee can take up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for any of the following reasons:
• For the birth and care of a newborn child of the employee;
• For the placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
• To care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious health condition;
• To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition; or
• For limited emergencies; when the employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent is on active duty or called to active duty status as a member of the National Guard or Reserve.

Similar to the ADA, the FMLA only applies to certain employees. To be covered by the FMLA, the employer must have 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius of the worksite, the employee must have been employed for a minimum of 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months.

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Tennessee Workers Comp Information on Medical Records

August 4, 2012 by Jim Higgins

We all have an expectation of privacy with regard to our medical records. However, when you file a Tennessee workers compensation claim you will lose much of that privacy. Understandably, if you have a work injury the employer has a right to know the extent of the injury when resolving your case. The difficulty arises with the employer want to go beyond the medical records related to injury and dig into medical history that is not related. As a Tennessee Workers Comp lawyer I have faced this battle several times. So what are your rights?

To have some guidance we need to look at the TN workers comp act. Here is part of the relevant language:
It is the intent of the general assembly that the administration of the workers' compensation system proceed in a timely manner and that the parties and the department have reasonable access to the employee's medical records and medical providers that are pertinent to and necessary for the swift resolution of the employee's workers' compensation claim.

So the big question becomes what is "pertinent to and necessary" . Generally, this depends on your claim. If you have a back injury then the employer may have a right to all of your prior orthopedic records. They would argue these records are necessary to see if your injury is the result of a prior condition. However, if you have a broken leg then prior records probably aren't relevant. The bottom line is that you will lose some medical privacy if you file a claim. However, the lose of that privacy should be very limited. A doctor patient privilege is a time honored relationship and it should stay that way as much as possible.

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Tennessee Pregnancy Discrimination Laws

July 4, 2012 by Jim Higgins

Recently I discussed the current laws that can protect a woman's job both during a pregnancy and after the birth of the child. In general there are three (3) key acts that can protect a pregnant employee's job. These acts include the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”), the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") and sometimes the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If you would like to see our discussions on these acts you can watch the interview below:

If you want to know your employee rights you can contact one of our Tennessee Labor Lawyers to discuss your issues. These laws are there to give you the security of keeping your job and being able to financially support your family. We have helped Tennessee Workers across the state enforce their rights and we would be glad to discuss any issues you may have.

How to find a Tennessee Workers Compensation Lawyer

March 1, 2012 by Jim Higgins

Finding a lawyer today is not always so easy. People are bombarded with commercials and advertising but how do you find a lawyer that is right for you and your case. We always suggest that before you hire a TN work comp lawyer you should perform some basic research. The best place to start is to ask someone you know that has already been through the work comp system who they used and did they fell a good job was performed. Next look on the internet. You can usually get some basic information about a lawyer's experience and success from their websites. Last but not least go meet with a few lawyers. A workers compensation lawsuit can be very stressful so it is important that you and your lawyer "click".

Recently, Jim Higgins, was interviewed about this subject. You can watch the interview by clicking below:

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A Common Workers’ Compensation Mistake: Failure to Inform Your Doctor the Effect of Your Injury on Your Work

February 14, 2012 by Jim Higgins

procedure must be followed in order for them to file a Tennessee Workers’ Compensation claim and in order for them to be able to receive this compensation. However, there are many mistakes several employees make during the process of their lawsuit or even before their lawsuit that make proving the injury to a judge difficult. I have discussed several of these common mistakes in my previous blog posts and another one I see often is that people will fail to inform their doctor about how their work-related injury actually affects their ability to work.

Many clients may feel that if they were injured while at work than the fact that this injury affects their work would be obvious, however, just because you may know that your injury affects your work, this does not mean that your insurance company or a judge will know it. This is why it is very important to tell your doctor about your pain and how it affects your work so that it can be documented in medical records. This way a judge and insurance company can have substantial proof of just how much this job injury has affected your ability to work. It is also a good idea to document your pain and problems in a journal so that you do not forget to mention it to your doctor when you go for your appointments.

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Another Common Workers’ Compensation Mistake: Talking About Your Lawsuit, Your Employer, the Insurance Company, or Seeking Legal Advice from your Doctor

February 13, 2012 by Jim Higgins

Tennessee workers’ compensation cases can be tricky to process and prove in court even when all the steps are followed properly. They can become even more difficult when common mistakes are made during the process. Another one of the most common mistakes that people may make during a workers’ compensation claim or lawsuit is talking to their doctor about the lawsuit, the insurance company, your employer, or asking the doctor for legal advice concerning your case.

In the last blog, I discussed how important it is to be honest with your doctor about your medical history, personal habits and anything else that they may need to know about the injury in order to proper diagnose it and provide the proper treatment for you. Many people may think that this also includes telling the doctor about your lawsuit, talking about your employer or your insurance company or even seeking their advice about your claim, however speaking with your doctor about the specifics of your lawsuit, may only cloud your case or create negative implications in your medical records. It may even complicate or negatively affect your medical care and treatment. It is also important to remember that anything you say in confidence to your doctor is NOT protected information once you have filed a workers’ compensation claim in court. If you have questions about your case, your employer, your insurance company, or your legal options, it is best to consult with your Tennessee workers’ compensation lawyer about it.

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Another Common Tennessee Worker’s Compensation Mistake: Failure to be Honest with the Doctor about Medical History and Personal Habits

February 13, 2012 by Jim Higgins

Tennessee workers’ compensation claims can be complicated to win in court if the case lacks credibility or if the injury itself is called in question. This can happen most often if an employee fails to be totally honest with their doctor about their medical history and personal habits as well as any other necessary information needed for the doctor to provide an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Many clients may not see a reason to tell their doctor about a particular medical condition or personal habit. Some clients may even feel embarrassed about revealing certain information; however, failing to provide accurate information to your doctor can lead to misdiagnosis of the injury as well as improper treatment for it. This may not only cause you to suffer more pain and problems in the future but it can cause your case for workers’ compensation to be weakened because it can damage your credibility and the court may even question the injury completely causing the case to be rejected or destroyed. If this occurs, you may not receive the compensation you need for your injury. This is why it is important to be as honest with your doctor as possible about your medical history and any personal habits that may affect the diagnosis of your injury.

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2nd Most Common Worker’s Compensation Mistake: Failure to Seek Medical Attention Soon After Injury

February 13, 2012 by Jim Higgins

Tennessee worker’s compensation claims may be difficult to prove in court if a specific procedure is not followed by the employee and their employer soon after the injury has occurred. In the past few blogs, I have looked at common mistakes made in Tennessee worker’s compensation cases. Another mistake I often see when clients file these claims is failing to seek reasonable medical attention soon after the injury occurred. In Tennessee, worker’s compensation law requires that the injured employee has the responsibility of proving that they were injured while at the workplace. It may difficult to prove this however, if you do not seek reasonable medical attention almost immediately after you have been injured. This is why it is best to seek the medical attention you need for injury as soon as possible.

Many people may not want to seek medical attention after a work injury because they do not think they need it or because they do not want to leave work in order to seek the medical attention they need. However, if you wait to seek medical attention for a work-related injury, insurance companies may believe that this is a sign that you did not suffer significant injury because you failed to seek treatment for it. If this happens to you, please contact one of our experienced and caring worker’s compensation attorneys immediately. Another important reason to seek medical attention as soon as possible after a work-related injury is because it may take days or weeks for you to realize how injured you are, however, if a doctor examines your injury right away, they be able to detect it shortly after the incident occurred.

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Common Mistakes Made in Tennessee Workers Compensation Claims

February 7, 2012 by Jim Higgins

The Tennessee Workers Compensation Law can be very unforgiving when employees make innocent mistakes. One of the most common mistakes we see is a failure to report your work injury. In Tennessee you must report your injury within thirty (30) days. Although, there are exceptions to this harsh rule the safest thing to do is report your injury immediately.

I think what often occurs is people feel they have just sustained a temporary injury and they don't want to be seen as whiner. However, when the injury doesn't go away and the worker tries to report the claim an employer will often deny covering the injury because it wasn't timely reported. If this happens to you, please contact a work comp lawyer as soon as possible. Often the injury will be covered if the court believes the worker reported the injury once they realized it was a serious problem. However, to prevail you must make sure both the medical evidence and witness testimony supports the legal reasons for the delay.

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Tennessee Supreme Court Rules Injury Caused by Dog Compensable under Workers’ Compensation Law

January 3, 2012 by Jim Higgins

In Tennessee and all over the country, when employees injury themselves on the job or while performing job related tasks, they can file a workers’ compensation claim and have their medical expenses covered by their employer. In some cases however, it is difficult to determine whether or not certain injuries in specific situations should be compensated by Workers’ Compensation law. In these cases the states’ Supreme Court typically makes a ruling.

In a recent case, David Kirby was performing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning services for Memphis Jewish Nursing Home in September of 2008 and injured his right shoulder while trying to avoid falling down a flight of stairs. He had surgery for the injury in June of 2009 to repair a tendon and cartilage in his arm. Months after his surgery, David Kirby returned home after a medical appointment and found one of his dogs was running loose. He grabbed the dog by the collar and when the dog pulled away, this motion, caused David to reinjure his arm.

When the case was brought before a Tennessee Chancery Court, it was ruled that David Kirby did not act negligently when trying to restrain his dog and the re-injured arm was considered to be “a natural consequence of the original injury.” The court awarded forty percent partial disability benefits to Kirby based on the first injury and the impairment caused by the dog incident.

When the nursing home appealed the decision, the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel of the Tennessee Supreme Court confirmed the Chancery Court’s decision. It ruled testimony from Kirby’s doctor which encouraged him to push past his limits while recovering from his arm surgery. The doctor’s testimony also stated that Kirby was not restricted from walking his dog after his surgery.

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Fraudulent Work Comp Claims Hurt the People that Really Need the Benefits

December 13, 2011 by Jim Higgins

Knock on wood I have never had a client try to pursue a fraudulent Tennessee workers compensation case. I have had people call me that I felt they were trying to game the system and have promptly refused to represent those workers. However, I have represented hundreds of good hard working folks that have been injured on the job. My clients didn't enjoy getting hurt and they had much rather been working than have a good workers compensation case. That is why it makes me so mad when I read about people that pursue fraudulent workers compensation claims. It is nothing more than stealing and it just hurts workers with legitimate claims.

Recently, I read about a few arrest that were made on employees trying to cheat the work comp system. Among the people arrested was a worker that told his girlfriend he was faking an injury so he could take a vacation to Florida. Another, was reportedly working as a coach while getting workman's compensation payments. Yet another continued to collect checks from the work comp insurance company after her husband had died.

Assuming these allegations are true I am pleased that these people have been caught. It is also my hope that the government will investigate that insurance companies that refuse benefits without good reason to people that disparately need them. In fact, based upon my experience it is the insurance carrier that is in the wrong much more often than the injured employee.

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Preparing for a workers compensation trial

November 12, 2011 by Jim Higgins

We have litigated Tennessee workers compensation cases for about twenty (20) years now. Over this time period I have tried many different methods to make sure the court understands my client's case. I have found some methods work better than others but more importantly I have learned that there is no exact formula or magic bullet. Every case is different, every client is different and every Judge is different. However, there are a few general rules I recommend. Over the next few weeks I will discuss a few of my rules.

As a starter, we need to pick the witnesses who will best present our client's problems. I have found over time that judges and jury are less receptive to people complaining about their own problems. I believe it is more important for the injured employee to discuss how they have changed their life to beat the limitations of their injury. Even thought that may not be able to perform many of the activities they did before the injury they can discuss how they still try, how they modify their life, that they are not giving up. I believe neighbors, co-workers and relatives are often better equipped to discuss the heartaches and setbacks that the injured worker has endured. I don't know why but it seems that we are more receptive to someone else describing a person's problems than the victim describing their own problems. Finally, if you can have someone in addition to a spouse describe the problem I think you are better off. Everyone expects a husband or wife to support their spouse so the testimony is really no big surprise. However, a co-worker has much more of an impact. They have nothing to gain or loose and in fact it can often be seen as a risk for them to testify.

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Tennessee Labor Lawyer Jim Higgins discusses impact of federal law on workers comp cases

August 5, 2011 by Jim Higgins

Employment lawyer, Jim Higgins, Discusses how the federal law can impact a Tennessee Work Comp Claim. You can watch the interview below:

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Tennessee Employment lawyer discusses impact of Federal Laws on State Workers Comp Cases

August 2, 2011 by Jim Higgins

Labor lawyer Jim Higgins discusses how Federal employment laws can protect a Tennessee Employee who files a workers compensation case. These laws include the Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. You can watch the interview here:

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Proposed Changes to Tennessee Workers Compensation Law

April 12, 2011 by Jim Higgins

Attorney Jim Higgins was recently interviewed regarding proposed changes to the Tennessee Workers Compensation Law. If the law is passed if will prevent many injured workers from receiving the benefits they need to get well and back to work. You can watch the interview by clicking below.


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Proposed Changes to Tennessee Work Comp Laws

March 29, 2011 by Jim Higgins

The Tennessee Legislature is proposing changes to the workers compensation act. Some of the changes include removing repetitive stress injuries from the act. Jim Higgins was recently interviewed regarding these changes. You can watch the interview here:

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Tennessee Government moving to Limit Work Comp benefits even further

February 27, 2011 by Jim Higgins

Tennessee has a very conservative work comp system. A few years ago the legislature cut these benefits to so that Tennessee workers would receive less for permanent injuries. This was frustrating for employees as the system already only provided modest compensation for injuries. Well the Tennessee legislature is again in the process of reducing the already limited benefits available to workers.

Specifically, the legislature wants to remove repetitive injuries from the Tennessee work comp law. In other words, if you have worked on an assembly line for years using a pneumatic tool all day long and you develop an injury to your wrist or shoulder you would not be covered under the new law. According to the proposed legislation it would just be your problem.

Currently, the benefits for repetitive injuries are to provide you medical treatment and a small check so you can get back to work. If your injury is permanent you may get a small award. Under the new law the worker would get nothing and simply discarded. I am truly at a lost as to how these legislature is completely ignoring their constituents and pandering to big business and insurance companies. If you agree, please call or email your representative today!

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What is Reconsideration of a TN Work Comp Claim

February 21, 2011 by Jim Higgins

In Tennessee, the compensation recoverable for a work comp permanent injury is limited if the employee is able to return to work at the same rate of pay. This provision under the Tennessee Workers Compensation Act is in place to get the employer incentive to get the employee back to work. Get the injured back to work and the injury will not costs you so much.

Unfortunately, some employers will return the employee to work just to take advantage of the cap and they will shortly thereafter terminate the employee. To keep this from happening the work comp act will allow a "reconsideration" of the workers compensation case. This allows the employee to re-open the case and litigate it again with the cap being removed. In general a case can be reopened if the employee losses their employment through no fault of their own within 200 or 400 weeks of the original injury (depending on the injury)

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What is a TN Work Comp Benefit Review Conference

February 15, 2011 by Jim Higgins

Pursuant to the Tennessee Workers Compensation Act both sides must submit to a benefit review conference (BRC) before a workers compensation lawsuit can be filed. I do not always like the fact that it is mandatory but I must admit the system has proven me wrong on occasions. I say this because often I have had workers compensation cases that I believe there is no way to settle the case and I just want to file the work comp lawsuit and get the case moving. However, on more than one occasion we have been able to work out a reasonable settlement at the department of labor during a BRC.

Here is how they work. In one room you will have the employee and their attorney. In the other room will be the lawyer for the insurance company/employer and a person with authority to settle the claim. The state of Tennessee will provide a specialist who will try to work out an agreement between the parties. The specialist will go back and forth between the rooms and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the case. The specialist will attempt to help both sides see the entire case more clearly. As work comp lawyers, we are trained from the start to be zealous advocates. This is great in a courtroom but can be difficult when trying to settle a work comp case. This is because both sides tend to feel strongly about their positions and just do not want to give. With the help of a mediator, however, reasonable compromises can be found.

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How Long Should a Tennessee Work Comp Case Take?

February 10, 2011 by Jim Higgins

I get this question a lot. The honest answer is there is no answer. Some cases finish fairly quickly and others can take a couple of years. On average in Tennessee, if a workers compensation case does not settle it will take about a year and a half to get to trial. Unfortunately, it just takes time and work to get a case ready for trial. It is not something you can rush.

Here is what is involved. After you have been released from your workers comp doctor and obtain an impairment rating you must have a benefit review conference (BRC) with the opposing side. This is basically a mediation that is conducted by the Department of Labor of the State of Tennessee. Probably about 70% of the cases get resolved at this juncture. As such, if your work comp case is completed at this section then your case is over fairly quickly. If you are unable to reach an agreement at the BRC then the next stop is litigation.

Once a lawsuit is filed the other side has thirty (30) days to answers. The parties then generally trade written discovery. This will take another couple of months. After the written discovery is completed depositions of parties, witnesses and doctors are conducted. Once all of this process is completed the case can be set for trial. Sometimes a trial judge can set your case quickly and sometimes their docket is very busy.

The bottom line is that you just have to be patient. I know this can be difficult but if you do not build the case or want to just settle early you will likely not be getting the full value of your claim. Also, just because it is taking time does not mean that your lawyer is not working. Feel free to ask them what has been done and what else needs to be done. They should be able to tell you their strategy and give you a rough timeline.

Continue reading "How Long Should a Tennessee Work Comp Case Take?" »

Tips to Finding a Tennessee Workers Compensation Lawyer

February 7, 2011 by Jim Higgins

If you are trying to find an attorney to represent you in a workman's compensation case there are a few basic questions that you should ask. These questions include:

-What is the lawyer's experience with workers compensation cases In other words, how long have they practiced work comp law, how much of their practice is dedicated to workers compensation and approximately how many cases have they handled?

-Will the lawyer advance all costs associated with the lawsuit? This would include filing fees, expert witness fees and court reporter expenses.

- Find out of the lawyer represents employers/insurance companies or employees.

In addition to these questions it is important you that are comfortable with the work comp lawyer. Some lawyers are just a better fit for you and your type of case.

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Rick Piliponis from The Higgins Firm discusses the value of TN Work Comp Cases

February 4, 2011 by Jim Higgins

Rick Piliponis from our firm was recently interviewed as to how you can determine the value of your Tennessee Workman's Compensation Case. For some basic insight into this issue please feel free to watch.

Continue reading "Rick Piliponis from The Higgins Firm discusses the value of TN Work Comp Cases" »

Tennessee Employer's Workers Compensation Coverage Now Online

November 25, 2010 by Jim Higgins

Good news for other lawyers that practice workman's compensation law in Tennessee. As you are all aware it can often be challenging to find out if an employer had workers comp insurance and the identity of the work comp insurance company. The TN dept. of labor has now added a page to their website where you can verify an employer has coverage and obtain the identity of the insurance company. The like to the site can be found here.

This should also help employees confirm their company has coverage in case they are hurt on the job. After practicing work comp law for so many years I have often seen employees not realize that their boss didn't have work comp coverage until after they suffered an injury. Unfortunately, learning this after an injury is too late and can leave the employee in desperate condition. As such, if you are starting with a new company I suggest you verify coverage through the state's website. This is especially true if you are working for a small company as that is generally where we see a lack of coverage.

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The importance of reporting your Tennessee Workers Compensation injury

October 30, 2010 by Jim Higgins

Pursuant to TN law a worker must report their on the job injury within 30 days. This requirement is met if the employer is actually aware of the injury. In other words, if you fall off a roof and your employer takes you to the hospital the notice requirement is obviously satisfied.

The most common problems that we see with the reporting requirement involve repetitive motion injuries and injuries that people do not realize are serious. Repetitive motion injuries involve things like carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive back injuries or shoulder injuries. The obvious difficulty with reporting these work injuries is they generally develop over time. The law recognizes this and has given some room on the reporting requirement. Specifically, the employee should report the injury when a reasonable person knows there is a problem. Commonly this begins when a person seeks medical treatment for the work injury and the doctor discovers the cause of the problem.

As to injuries that seem temporary the law is similar. We see this a lot when someone pulls their back and believe it is simply a sore muscle. Unfortunately, when that injury doesn't go away they often find it can be something more serious like a herniated disk. Again, as soon as you believe you may have a work injury report it. If you get better then it is no big deal, however, if you have a permanent injury that you do not report you may loose your right to bring the case.

Continue reading "The importance of reporting your Tennessee Workers Compensation injury" »

New Workers Compensation Law Limits Tennessean's Right to Reconsideration

July 5, 2010 by Jim Higgins

Under the Tennessee Workers Compensation Act an employees recovery for a work injury is limited to 1.5 times their impairment rating if the employee returns to their pre-injury employer at the same rate of pay. I will admit that I do have mixed feelings with regard to this law. I do appreciate the fact that it encourages an employer to rehire the injured employee. Unfortuanlty, the compensation available under the comp act is already so limited it leaves an employee with such a nominal monetary award for a permenant injury that it is simply not equitable.

The law also has a safety provision that allows the employee to reopen the case if they loose their job within a certain period of time. For example, if a person has a shoulder or back injury and their compensation is capped becuase they return to work they may reopen the case if they loose the job within 400 weeks of the return to work date. Well the legislature just enacted an exception to this reconsideration right.

Specfically, if the employer reduces the injured employee's pay that employee may not reopen the case if it is the result of an economic downturn. To ensure that this is truly a pay reduction because of an economic downtown and not a punishment for filing a work comp claim the law states that atleast 50% of the employees working for the company must also have ad a pay reductions. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.


Continue reading "New Workers Compensation Law Limits Tennessean's Right to Reconsideration" »

Ways to Hire a Tennessee Worker Compensation Attorney

April 7, 2010 by Jim Higgins

When we get hurt at work, many of us may know that we are entitled to compensation, but there are still many questions such as: how does the process work, how much compensation do I receive, what kind of paperwork do I need to have, and many more. When we are hurt we just would like to know that our injuries will be well taken care of. The best way to do this is by hiring a Tennessee Worker Compensation attorney, but you may think the process is difficult. Here are some tips to help make the process a little easier and to help get you the compensation you deserve.

First, friends and family and even coworkers are a good first place to start when trying to find and hire the best Tennessee Worker Compensation attorney. They may have gone through the process or know someone who has and may be able to offer you a good reference. You may also be able to look in the phone book or contact your Tennessee Bar Association for a good worker compensation attorney for your specific case.

Once you find some possible choices, it is a good idea to do your research. Go online to their website and see how many years they have been working and how much experience they may have with workers comp cases. It may also be helpful to read any articles on their website that deal with worker compensation laws and cases. Finally, it is highly recommend to contact them by phone and ask any questions you may have.

When meeting with the Tennessee worker compensation attorney it is a good idea to notice how easy they are to talk to, how genuine they seem, and how much experience they have in handling cases similar to yours. It is also a good idea to ask for references if they have any available. Finally, it is important to discuss cost and fees if they were to handle your case.

These tips can really help you to handle the best Tennessee Worker Compensation attorney possible. The Worker Compensation attorneys at the Higgins Firm are very experienced in these cases and we care about getting you the compensation you deserve to get your life back in order.

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Tennessee Trane Employees may be able to re-open prior workmens compensation cases

December 24, 2009 by Jim Higgins

It has just been reported that the Trane plant in Clarksville, TN will layoff 113 employees. A layoff is never easy but it can be especially difficult during the holiday season. Hopefully, as the economy picks up the company will be able to bring some of these employees back to work.

The employees will receive some help through unemployment benefits. Also, if any of the employees have had a prior workers compensation claim they may be able to reopen the claim and get more money. Specifically, in Tennessee if you have a workers compensation claim the amount of money you receive is often capped if you return to your same employer. However, if you later loose the job through no fault of your own the case can ofter be reopened to get money above the cap. This is known as reconsideration.

Continue reading "Tennessee Trane Employees may be able to re-open prior workmens compensation cases" »

Asbestos Lawsuit Settlement with
Smithsonian Sheds Light on a National Workplace Cancer

December 10, 2009 by Jim Higgins

The Smithsonian settled an asbestos lawsuit with a former employee for $233,000 and health insurance after the museum’s worker was diagnosed last year with asbestosis. The employee, Richard Pullman, 54, worked for 28 years at the museum, installing exhibits. This required drilling and sawing interior walls containing asbestos, a risk Pullman and other workers were first made aware of in 2008.

A Smithsonian spokeswoman has said that the settlement is not an admission of guilt, an odd statement given that Mr. Pullman has worked the majority of his life at the National Air and Space Museum and that inhaling asbestos, speaking realistically, the only cause of asbestosis.

Initially, Mr. Pullman was denied a worker's compensation coverage claim for asbestosis, though he would win on appeal. He is now allowed worker's compensation for treatment of asbestosis-related injury and benefits if he becomes disabled or dies from the disease.

Continue reading "Asbestos Lawsuit Settlement with
Smithsonian Sheds Light on a National Workplace Cancer" »

Recent Tennessee Workers Comp Trial

November 2, 2009 by Jim Higgins

http://www.hhpfirm.com/lawyer-attorney-1053037.htmlLast week a had a workmen's compensation trial in Nashville, TN. The issue was whether or not my client was an employee or independent contractor. Unfortunately this is an issue that i am seeing more often throughout Tennessee.

The basics of my case involved a worker who was employed as a cleaning lady. She was told by her boss where to be, what to do and how to do it. Her employer had significant control over the working relationship. However, when my client began working for the company they had her sign several papers including a paper that said she was an independent contractor. My client had no idea that by signing this paper she was potentially giving up rights to overtime pay, workers compensation benefits and other employment benefits. Subsequently she fell from a ladder at work and sustained a fractured leg which required extensive surgery. Her benefits were denied under the TN work comp system and she was left with thousands of dollars in medical bills and no pay to support her family. This was all denied because she signed the independent contractor agreement.

Fortunately at trial we were able to prove that just because the employer calls you an "independent contractor" it doesn't mean that you are one. The law allows the court to view the working relationship as a whole. After doing so in our case the court agreed that my client was an employee and she was able to get all her benefits. It is just unfortunate that she had to go through this entire situation because her employer attempted to escape the work compensation system.

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Tennessee Workers are often denied medical treatment under the comp system

October 3, 2009 by Jim Higgins

There are parts of our workers compensation system that I really like and there are parts that I do not like. One benefit that is wonderful when it works correctly is the right to lifetime medical benefits for your workman's compensation injury. Basically, in Tennessee if you sustain a permanent injury as the result of a work accident you are entitled to medical benefits for that injury for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, the insurance carriers will often deny these benefits by claiming the needed medical treatment is not related to the original injury.

If you had a TN comp injury and now need medical treatment for that injury it is very important that you have good communication with your doctor. The approval of these medical claims will usual rise and fall based upon your doctor's opinion as to whether the need for treatment is related to the original injury. As such, if you are anticipating future treatment do not wait until the last minute to see your work comp doctor. Be sure to visit when needed and discuss any progression in symptoms and build your relationship. If you are honest and straight forward with your doctor they will usually stand by you if the insurance company turns down your claim. So much if your case will rest in their hands so keep that relationship strong.

It is also important to note that if the workmen compensation insurance company denies the medical benefits and a court finds the denial to be in error then you will be awarded attorney fees. As such, our office is able to take these cases without charging the client. We only get paid if we win the case. Of course, that also means we need to feel good about being able to win a case before we accept them. These cases can be expensive to try and very time consuming so most attorneys want good medical documentation supporting the need for treatment and relating the need to the original comp injury. Without that medical support they are hard to win. So again, do your best to create a strong working relationship with your doctor. It will help you, your lawyer and the Court will have a better understanding of your medical needs.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact my law office.

New AMA Guidelines Impact TN workers comp cases

September 10, 2009 by Jim Higgins

I have been handling workmans compensation cases for almost 20 years now. One thing I have seen over the years is that workers seem to get less and less for their permanent injuries. The latest attack on these benefits has come in the form of a impairment guideline known as the The AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, Sixth Edition.

In Tennessee, doctors are required to use this guidelines to establish a percentage of medical impairment for permanent injuries sustained from 2008 forward. This impairment rating is tied directly to the amount of compensation a person receives for a work injury. The higher the impairment the more money will be received. This is very important as that money is to make up for a person loss of income because of their disability. It is used to feed their families, obtain new training and to help survive financially. Unfortunately, the impairment ratings given under the new guidelines is almost always smaller than previous editions. This can costs an injured worker thousands of dollars. Also, with caps that were placed on these awards by our legislature a couple of years ago the amount of compensation for serious work injuries is often tragically low and provides very little security for our workers. Of course, insurance carriers continue to make millions on these insurance polices.

You don't always need a lawyer in a workers compensation cases but it is always smart to talk to a lawyer before resolving your case. It usually runs about 50/50 on the injured workers I talk to as to whether they need an attorney. If you just aren't sure or have a question feel free to send me an email or contact me at TN law office. We handle cases across the state.

Important Change to Tennessee Workers Compensation Law

August 14, 2009 by Jim Higgins

The TN legislature made an important change to the Tennessee Workman's Compensation Law. Specifically, compensation is limited in work comp cases if the employee returns to work with the pre-injury employer at the same rate of pay. However, the employee can re-open the case for more money if they lose their job within a certain amount of time from the settlement. To do so, you must file the claim for reconsideration within one year after the loss of employment. Unfortunately, our Court ruled that if the employer sells the business the one year time limit starts to run. This is true even if the employee continues to work for the new employer without any changes. This was very tricky because often employees do not even know a business has been sold or they never consider reopening a case because they are still at work making a good living. We would often have people call our office to reopen a case after a layoff or termination and they would have no idea that the time to file for reconsideration ran long ago because their company had traded hands in the past. Thankfully this problem has now been fixed.

To fix this problem the legislature has enacted the following law:

Reconsideration of a Prior Workers Compensation Claim

This law prohibits reconsideration of a prior permanent partial disability award/settlement pursuant to T.C.A. § 50-6-241 in those instances where the ownership of the employer and/or business changes but the employee continues to be employed by the successor business with the same or higher rate of pay or the employee declines an offer of employment with the same or higher rate of pay. This applies to workers compensation claims that occur on or after July 1, 2009.

If you have lost your job within the last year and had a prior workmen's compensation claim please feel free to call our Tennessee Law Office to discuss your rights. We handle work comp claims across the state. You can call us at 800.705-2121.

TN Circuit City Employees May Be Able to Reopen Work Comp Claims

January 19, 2009 by Jim Higgins

With the unfortunate news of more layoffs from another large company, Circuit City, it is important for all Tennessee employees to be informed of potential help they may have in these hard times. One benefit many employees are unaware of is the ability to reopen an old workers compensation claim if you are laid off. As such, if you had a prior workerman compensation claim and you are being terminated due to the economy you may be able to reopen you claim.

If you think this may apply to you, feel free to call our Nashville, TN law office with any questions you may have about TN workers comp claims.

Tennessee Supreme Court addresses work comp issues

January 7, 2009 by Jim Higgins

The Tennessee Supreme court recently attempted to clarify an issue we often see in workers compensation cases. This issue arises when someone has a pre-existing problem, such as arthritis, and a work accident causes the condition to become worse. The issue becomes is the now work related pre-existing injury that is not covered under the TN comp act or is it compensable.

In an attempt to clarify the issue the supreme court stated that for the work injury to be compensable there must be a progression of the underlying condition. Specifically, the court held: "if the injury advances the severity of the pre-existing condition,or if, as a result of the pre-existing condition, the employee suffers a new, distinct injury other than increased pain, then the work injury is compensable."

The difficulty in many of these cases falls on having a doctor testify that the condition has become worse. Often they will say the condition is only more painful. This new case will have an interesting and uncertain impact on increased pain cases. There were cases that said if the new injury caused an asymptomatic condition to create disabling pain then it is compensable. This new case seems to dance around that specific issue just a little. So we will now have to see how the lower courts, the doctors and lawyers deal with this new clarification of a confusing section of the Tennessee Workers compensation act.

If you have a workmans compensation case that was turned down as a "pre-existing or degernative condition feel free to contact my office to discuss. Generally, we can order and review your medical records to determine where you stand. If you would like for us to review your case just contact our Nashville Law Office.

Tennessee Workers May re-open their work comp claim

December 6, 2008 by Jim Higgins

This week alone more than 1000 workers in Tennessee have lost their job. Many of my prior workers compensation clients have called to see if there is anything that can be done other than unemployment benefits Sometimes we can give these folks some more financial help.

In addition to unemployment benefits you can often re-open your workers compensation case to obtain additional compensation. Specifically, as many know your comp award is limited if you return to work for the same rate of pay. However, if you loose the job within a certain amount of time you can reopen the case to go beyond the cap. Because of the poor economy we have filed many new reconsideration claims. It will not got your job back but it can help in these tough times.

If you have lost your job and had a prior workmans compensation claim feel free to call or email my office to see if we can help. We handle workman's compensation cases throughout TN.

Continue reading "Tennessee Workers May re-open their work comp claim" »

A Difficult Tennessee Workman's Compensation Case

December 6, 2008 by Jim Higgins

This week I tried a fairly unique worker's compensation case in Nashville. My client is a strong hard working lady who has been employed in a hospital all of her working life. After years of working in the hospital my client developed a severe latex allergy. In fact, she became so sensitive to latex that if she touched any object that another person had touched wearing a latex glove she would have a reaction. The reaction would cause her heart to race, her throat would swell and she would began having difficulty breathing. Immediate medical care would be required or should would go into anaphalyctic shock. Obviously, because of this allergy she was eventually forced to leave her job at the hospital. She is currently working in retail for a fraction of her prior wage.

Here is were it becomes difficult. In Tennessee, a workers comp award is based largely on the physical impairment given by your doctor. Impairments are based upon the AMA guidelines. There is no clean way to give my client an impairment under the guidelines. Does that mean she is less impaired than others? Of course not. However, because of the rigidity of the law it is difficult for the Court to give a fair award as in general all awards are based upon the doctors medial impairment rating. Cases such as this one demonstrate the need to give the Court more flexibility in their rulings. I have no doubt the Court will reach a fair ruling in this case but it will take a creative ruling. I will let you know the results of the ruling when it arrives.

Laid off Tennessee Workers may be able to open old comp cases

November 9, 2008 by Jim Higgins

As a result of our struggling economy many Tennessee Workers have been laid off from work. In fact, over the past couple of months Whirlpool, GM, and Summit have announced layoffs and closings leaving hundreds of Tennesseans without employment.

One benefit that many of these workers may have that they are unaware of is they can often reopen old workmans compensation cases to obtain more money for their injuries. In Tennessee work comp cases are capped if a worker returns to the same employer at the same wage after the injury. However, he or she lost the job to no fault of their own they can ofter reopen their cases for more compensation. There are certain time limits that apply but a lawyer will be able to help you with these issues fairly quickly.

If you had a prior compensation claim and have lost your job within the past year through no fault of your own, please feel free to contact our office to discuss your rights.

Tennessee Employees Are Often Incorrectly Classified as Independent Contractors

October 14, 2008 by Jim Higgins

It seems that my office is seeing a bigger trend of employers classifying their workers as "independent contractors" in an effort to avoid providing benefits. We often see these cases when someone is hurt on the job and they are denied Workman's compensation benefits upon the grounds that they are an independent contractor. Unfortunately, the classification as an independent contractor is often given incorrectly and was only given in an effort to escape these benefits.

It is important to know that even if you sign an agreement stating you are an independent contractor you may not be one. The law in Tennessee looks at not what the employer calls the worker but the actual control the company has over a worker to determine if he or she is independent contractor or an employee. In order to determine the extent of the control the following factors are considered:

A. the right to control the conduct of the work
B. The right of termination
C. The method of payment
D. The freedom to select and hire helpers
E. The furnishing of tools and equipment
F. Self scheduling of working hours
G. The freedom to offer services to other entities

The more of these factors which exist allowing the employer to control the worker the more likely a worker is an employee. As such, if you are hurt on the job and were denied workman compensation benefits on the grounds you are an independent contractor, please contact a lawyer to be sure your the denial is legal. You may call or email my office with any questions.

Some laid off Tennessee Workers can reopen work comp cases

April 17, 2008 by Jim Higgins

Aluminum manufacturer Aleris International Inc. announced that it will close its alloy facility in Shelbyville, Tenn. Unfortunately, this is just another plant closing in Tennessee.

It is important to note that some of the workers who lost their jobs and have a previous workman's compensation claim may be able to re-open their case. These folks need all the help they can get and this is one area where the work comp law may give some relief.

If you have recently lost your job and had a prior worker's compensation claim in Tennessee feel free to call my office to see if your case get be reopened for more compensation.

Right to re-open a Tennessee workers compensation case

March 25, 2008 by Jim Higgins

There are many considerations in determining the value of a workman's compensation claim. One of the most crucial factors is whether the "cap" applies. The is a limit in Tennessee on an award if the employer goes back to work for the same employer. Basically, if an employee returns to work for the same employer, making the same or greater hourly wage as before the injury, then their permanent disability is limited to no more than 1.5 times your medical impairment rating. This was placed as an incentive to have an employer return the employee to work.

It is important to note, however, that there are many situations where a workers compensation case can be reopened if the employee later losses his job. This is know as a right to reconsideration under the TN comp act. There are time limits to the right. The the right to file for reconsideration of the award must be done within 200 or 400 weeks of the return to work, depending on the type of injury. For instance a back injury there is a 400 week time limit but a leg injury is only 200 weeks.

If you have recently lost your job and had a prior workers compensation settlement you need to check your right to re-open your claim. Feel free to call my office to discuss.

Family of asbestos victims are given a chance

August 31, 2007 by Jim Higgins

Asbestos. For nearly a hundred years in America, this building material and insulator has caused lung damage in construction workers, shipyard and factory workers, mechanics, electricians, and many others in American workforce. And for over three decades, asbestos attorneys have helped victims of this dangerous fiber recover monetary awards to help pay for past and ongoing medical treatment and their loss of good health.

Last week, a new legal precedent was set by Washington State Court of Appeals that would allow victims of nonworkers—such as spouses, children, and others who suffer from the asbestos fibers—to have their day in court.

The injured in this particular asbestos lawsuit was the wife of a paper mill worker who was exposed to the asbestos fibers every time she washed her husband’s uniform using, as she always had, a hand-turned wringer. She was diagnosed four years ago with mesothelioma, a fatal form of lung cancer that caused almost exclusively by asbestos fibers.

Asbestos can be found in a variety of products including fire and heat insulation, automotive brakes, cements, gaskets, floor tiles, and various other products and materials. When these materials are manufactured, installed, shaped, reshaped, or repaired, fibers can come loose and remain airborne for weeks.

Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related injuries do not develop immediately. Sometimes it takes years or decades for the injuries and conditions to manifest. Many times those injured by asbestos will not remember when or how they were exposed. But now those suffering asbestos injuries from their loved one’s workplace exposure have a shot at recovering their losses.

Contact the Higgins firm if you suffer from mesothelioma or suspect other related asbestos injury. Working with experienced asbestos attorneys can help reveal when and how you or a loved one might have been exposed to asbestos fibers.

Tennessee Court Clears up Work Comp Time Limits

March 5, 2007 by Jim Higgins

The Tennessee Supreme Court recently addressed an issue that has been the source of significant confusion throughout the years. In general, an employee has one year to bring a workers compensation lawsuit. This time runs from the date of the injury or the last date of workers compensation benefits are provided. A difficult problem arises, however, when an employee suffers a gradual injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome or a back injury that occurs over time. The old case law said that the statute of limitations would begin to run when the employee knew or should have known they had a work related injury or the last date worked. It was very difficult to prove when an employee "should know the have a work injury."

The court has now narrowed the test. The time now begins to run based upon the last day worked doctrine. The Court believes that if the injury is so bad an employee has to miss work the should know that they have a serious work related injury. Workmans compensation is a remedial statute and the court feels this is a more forgiving law for the workers.

Tennessee Workers Injured as Scaffold Falls

December 30, 2006 by Jim Higgins

This week seven workers were severely injured when the scaffolding they were working upon fell. I have been litigating workers' compensation cases for over 15 years, and I can't remember a year when I didn't have several cases involving people injured while working on scaffolding.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that 65% of construction workers use scaffolds frequently, so it is not surprising that some of the most common accidents at construction sites involve scaffolds. These accidents are typically the most serious in terms of injury severity, and can result from construction workers' falls from defective, improperly installed, or unreasonably safe scaffold equipment.

Because of the limitations on compensation for workers' compensation claims, it is imperative to discover the cause of these accidents. Often there are third parties that may be responsible for the employee's injuries. If a worker has permanent injuries it is important that he/she receives sufficient compensation to care for him/herself and his/her family. As such, every avenue must be explored. Of course, the best answer is for the employer to take sufficient safety precautions before the accident ever happens. Employers should ensure that the scaffolding is assembled properly, and that protective measures are in place to prevent objects from falling onto workers from scaffolds, lifts, and ladders.

Workplace Deaths Contribute to Tennessee’s 47th Place Health Rank

December 7, 2006 by Jim Higgins

The United Health Foundation just published their current findings about the state of Americans’ health in America’s Health Rankings™: A Call to Action for People and Their Communities. According to this annual report, nearly every state in the union is healthier than Tennessee. Coming in 47th place in a race based on several factors, Tennessee as a whole has a greater combined prevalence of obesity, smoking, infectious disease, cardiovascular deaths, infant mortality, child poverty, immunization rates, workplace deaths, and auto deaths than all states besides Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. While our state’s low health rank is due in part to unhealthy choices by people, such as smoking, many of the factors contributing to our poor health are outside of the control of individuals.

It is particularly shameful that the state of Tennessee, whose economic engine runs largely on the work of laborers, outdoes most other states in its volume of workplace deaths, many of which go unreported by the news. Just a couple weeks ago, 42-year-old Jonathon Horton died shortly after he was injured in an explosion on the job at the Rollex aluminum manufacturing plant in Jackson, Tennessee. The accident is currently under investigation, but Horton’s death is one of the many every year that contributes to Tennessee’s low health rank. His death is also one of the many occupational deaths that other states produce goods without.

Accidents like Jonathon Horton’s need to be investigated thoroughly and the responsible companies must take action to avoid such deaths in the future. But if we ever hope to have a healthy, and living, workforce and state, it is imperative that Tennessee and its industries prioritize safety in the workplace before stories like Horton’s are told. Our firm will continue to bring these cases to light.

Tennessee School Closes in Response to “Unusual Event” at Nuclear Power Plant

November 24, 2006 by Jim Higgins

A chemical plant near Boston exploded last night. Luckily, nobody died or was seriously injured, but many fires were still burning hours after the explosion, and at least twenty nearby homes were damaged beyond repair. Closer to home, employees at the Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant in East Tennessee noticed early yesterday morning that they might have a leak of radioactive cooling water inside the plant. As a protective measure, the Tennessee Valley Authority declared the possible leak an “unusual event,” the least severe federal classification for nuclear power plant problems. Concerned with the report, the superintendent of nearby Meigs Counry Schools sent his pupils home for the day. In doing so, he implemented the first nuclear-related evacuation since the 1979 accident at Three-Mile Island.

Although it was ultimately determined that this “unusual event” at the nuclear power plant was really just a miscalculation, news of the evacuation has made it everywhere from Tennessee to Australia to South Africa. Watts Bar President Mike Skaggs states in several of those news stories that there was never a danger posed to workers or community members and that the school evacuation was unnecessary. But the presence of both the school evacuation report and the Boston chemical plant explosion story in papers across the globe tells a different truth than Mr. Skaggs did: whenever you are working, learning, or living close to industries with high levels of chemical and radioactive materials, you are in a potential danger zone, and reporters all over the world are aware of this.

There are many federal regulations in place to minimize the risks associated with working and living in and near such industries, but they are not always adhered to. The most hazardous aspects of chemical and nuclear plants are the invisible effects they have inside our bodies. Invisible, that is, until cancers and other irreversible conditions take over our systems.

If you work in an industry with high levels of chemicals and/or radiation, your employer is responsible for protecting you from the associated workplace hazards. It is up to you to make sure he or she does not allow an “unusual event” to become a deadly one. If you believe that you have workplace-related health problems, do not hesitate to get the health care and legal representation you deserve.

Nashville Man Dies from Workplace Injury

November 9, 2006 by Jim Higgins

A young worker employed by Southern Medical Disposal, a medical waste disposal facility on Cement Plant road in Nashville, died last Thursday as a result of an on-the-job accident. The 21-year-old man slipped at work and attempted to brace his fall by grabbing onto a heavy object. Rather than helping the worker stay upright, the object fell on him. The resulting internal injuries were irreparable, and the young man died.

This Tennessee man, whose name was not mentioned in news reports, was one of almost six-thousand people who died from work-related injuries in the United States in the last year. Although he is nameless to the media, his untimely death has certainly affected the many individuals who loved and called him by name.

Six-thousand dead workers are six-thousand too many, but they are just a fraction of the 4.2 million people who are injured on the job every year in the United States. They are just a fraction of the 4.2 million individuals whose very livelihoods, sense of self, and physical abilities are forever changed and, for some, destroyed, as a result of mishaps in the workplace. Employers have a responsibility to provide workman’s compensation to each of these injured people. While some companies do honor those commitments, the confusing nature of Tennessee Workers Compensation Law allows many employers to get away with inadequately providing resources for their injured employees.

If you or someone you know has been injured on the job, do not hesitate to question the quality of your compensation. There are laws in place to protect you. This is your life we are talking about.

Tennessee Workers Compensation reform failed employees

September 29, 2006 by Jim Higgins

In 2004 the Tennessee Workers Compensation act was reformed. The bulk of the reform was to lower the benefits paid to workers when they are permenantly injured. Like so many political intitiatives the public was lead to believe that peolpe were getting rich for insignificant injuries.
I have represented workers through Tennessee with regard to on the job injuries.

Under the workmans compensation act it is common for employees to receive a fraction of what they lost in wages because of life changing injuries. However, these clients never had their stories published in the news or broadcast on television. In fact, the only time my cases are picked up by the news are when we successfully obtain a large verdict. I am afraid the public will never read an article describing the modest amount of money a person receives for loosing a limb at work. In fact, in Tennesse if your arm is completely amputed you get a portion of your average pay for 200 weeks.

In addition to reducing the awards for injuries the reform act also restricted an employees access to the courts. Employees cases can take longer. They can lose the right to appeal to the court for denied benefits for significant periods of time. I admit that the Tennessee Comp system was far from perfect before the "reform" but removing benefits from our workers was certainly a step in the wrong direction.