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.
If you have any questions about the impact of this legislation, please call on of our Tennessee Workers Comp Lawyers today.