How Long Do I Have to File a Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Tennessee workers’ compensation law allows employees to seek a “benefits review conference” (BRC) if their employer denies benefits for any reason. The burden is on the employee to seek a BRC by filing a “request for assistance” with the Tennessee Department of Labor. This is similar to a filing a complaint in order to initiate a personal injury lawsuit.
Panel Says Employee’s Medical Condition Unrelated to Filing Deadline
As with any legal proceeding, an employee asking for a BRC must follow certain filing deadlines. Tennessee courts take these deadlines—usually called a statute of limitations—quite seriously. They will not give an employee the benefit of the doubt just because their underlying claim may have merit.
Here is a recent example. In this case, a maintenance technician was injured while at work. She promptly reported the incident to her employer and received medical treatment for a neck injury. The employer paid temporary disability benefits until the employee was medically cleared to return to work, which was in December 2012.
A few months later, in April 2013, the employee’s doctor prepared a written report on her treatment and progress. The employer then made a final Workers’ Compensation payment for medical services. More than a year elapsed when the employee sought additional benefits from the employer. When the employer rejected the request, the employee filed a request for assistance with the Department of Labor.
The employer argued the employee’s claim was barred by the one-year statute of limitations, which starts to run on the date the employee received her last Workers’ Compensation benefit. In other words, since the employer made its final medical payment in April 2013, the plaintiff’s request for further benefits in May 2014 came too late. The employee responded that since she had not reached “maximum medical improvement,” according to her doctor’s April 2013 report, the one-year time period had not yet begun.
The Special Workers’ Compensation Panel of the Tennessee Supreme Court said the employee misunderstood the law. In an opinion granting summary judgment to the employer, the Panel said the one-year deadline was not tied to whether or not the employee had reached her maximum medical improvement. Indeed, the phrase “maximum medical improvement” is not used at all in the statute of limitations. Instead, the internal regulations of the Department of Labor state that a BRC hearing will not be held until an employee reaches maximum medical improvement. Those same rules state an employee must still file a request for assistance within the one-year deadline.
Get Help From a Knoxville Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you are an employee recovering from a serious on-the-job injury, the last thing you need to worry about is keeping track of legal deadlines. That is why you should work with an experienced Tennessee personal injury lawyer who can assist you in dealing with Workers’ Compensation and related issues. Contact the offices of Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, Attorneys at Law, in Clinton or Knoxville today if you need help with Workers’ Compensation or any other type of personal injury claim.