Rule Changes in the Works

By Chief Judge Kenneth M. Switzer

 
You spoke; we listened.
 
The Tennessee Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims has operated under a set of administrative rules that were drafted before we opened our doors. Now, with almost two years’ experience under our belts, parties, practitioners and we on the Court have come to see what worked well, and what needed change. To that end, we drafted proposed revisions. 
 
The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and the Court are conducting a public hearing on the proposed changes to the Mediation and Hearing Procedures at the Nashville office on Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. in the Tennessee Room. This is your opportunity to weigh in further.
 
The full-text proposed changes are available here. Below are highlights.
The major changes:
  • Going forward, parties may respond to requests for an expedited hearing up to ten business days prior to the scheduled hearing. The current rule allows for responses within five days of a party filing a request for hearing. This is in response principally to employers’ attorneys’ requests for more time. 
  • The new rules clarify the time for submission of wage statements. The previous rule was three days after the first mediation, which tended to confuse the parties. The new rule is seven days after the request from the mediating specialist or fifteen days after the dispute certification notice being issued, whichever is sooner. 
  • Rulings on the record (without a hearing) in the final compensation hearing may occur only upon request from at least one of the parties. Previously, the judge could make that decision on his or her own. The new rule allows the parties more control on rulings on the record for compensation hearings. However, with expedited hearings, the judge still retains discretion to decide a matter as a file review only. 
  • An attorney may be allowed to withdraw from a case upon motion and without a hearing at the judge’s discretion. The previous rule required a hearing, which consumed time for all involved.
  • Medical records to be introduced at a hearing must be filed no later than ten days before a hearing. The new rule clarifies which evidence will be considered and avoids last-minute “surprises” that might delay a hearing.
 The minor changes:
  • An “initial hearing” will now be called a “scheduling hearing.”
  • Causation letters signed by physicians will be admissible in an expedited hearing, but not at a compensation hearing. This has been the practice. The change simply clarifies that.
  • The new rules specifically authorize the electronic signature of physicians to admit medical records. This reflects the present practice and recognizes that medical records are all electronic these days.
  • The clerk of court will now issue subpoenas. Formerly, a judge did this, which required extra steps and delays in issuing subpoenas. This should streamline the process.
  • All references to the “division” of workers’ compensation are changed to the new name, the “bureau.”
If you are unable to attend to next Thursday’s public hearing, you may submit comments in writing. 

 

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