(We have limited these questions to those which relate to the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims only. Click here to learn more about the Reform Act of 2013 generally.)
Effective Date of the Reforms
Who decides my claim?
If the date of injury is July 1, 2014, or afterward, one of the judges on the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims decides your case.
Do I need a lawyer?
If you’re an injured worker, a lawyer is very helpful but not required. If you’re an employer, you may represent yourself when mediating the claim, but once a claim progresses to the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims, you must be represented by counsel.
Can I hire a lawyer at any time?
I can’t afford a lawyer/I can’t find one who will take my case. Who can help?
The Bureau supplies ombudsmen to answer procedural questions, but they cannot give legal advice. You can reach an ombudsman by calling 1-800-332-2667. Also, a guide for self-represented persons is available here.
How do I get my claim in court?
First, you must file a Petition for Benefit Determination and your case will be assigned to Mediation and Ombudsmen Services of Tennessee. A mediator will contact you and the other side seeking additional information and will ultimately attempt to help the parties reach a settlement. If that is not possible, the mediator will file a Dispute Certification Notice with the Clerk of the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims, and your case will be assigned to a judge.
Next, you must then file either a Request for Expedited Hearing or a Request for Initial Hearing. Generally speaking, at an expedited hearing, the judge hears testimony, considers any documentary evidence and issues a written decision on whether to grant benefits. This type of hearing is appropriate when you’re not getting assistance you need immediately in the form of medical care or temporary disability benefits. You must file an affidavit with a Request for Expedited Hearing.
In contrast, a Request for Initial Hearing is appropriate when there are disputes in the case but there is no immediate need for treatment or money benefits. At the initial hearing, a judge asks the parties to discuss the status of the case and the issues, and the judge will set a trial date, known as a “compensation hearing.” An initial hearing is really a scheduling conference only—the judge doesn’t hear testimony or make decisions on the merits of your case at that time.
I received a notice that my case is set for a show-cause hearing. What is that?
After the mediator files the dispute certification notice, if you haven’t filed either a Request for Expedited hearing or a Request for Initial Hearing within sixty days, the Clerk schedules your case for a show-cause hearing. You must call in at the date/time on the hearing notice and explain to the judge why you haven’t filed a hearing request. Typically, the judge will either offer you a brief window of additional time to file a hearing request or dismiss your case.
Dismissal with Prejudice
The judge dismissed my case “with prejudice.” What does that mean?
You may not re-file your case. If, however, the judge dismissed your case “without prejudice,” you may re-file it as long as it is not barred by by the statute of limitations.
My employer sent me “interrogatories.” How do I respond?
Answer the questions truthfully and completely. Your responses must be signed and notarized, and you must return them within thirty days. If you have completed your interrogatories and the information you provided has changed, you need to notify the attorney for the other side about these changes.
What if I can’t respond within thirty days?
Ask for an extension from the person who sent the interrogatories.
My employer’s lawyer sent me a “notice of deposition.” Do I have to appear?
Yes, generally. You will be providing sworn testimony, which a court reporter will record for later use in court.
I received a copy of a “motion” my employer’s lawyer filed with the Court. What should I do?
If it’s not a dispositive motion (one that could result in your case being dismissed), you have five days to file a response. If you don’t respond, the judge will likely enter an order granting the motion.
If the employer filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, you have thirty days to file a response in writing. The employer’s lawyer will give you a copy of the rule, which you must follow in its entirety. Again, if you don’t respond, it’s very likely the judge will dismiss your case.
I need a critical witness to testify at my hearing, but s/he won’t attend voluntarily. What can I do?
You may complete and file a subpoena ordering the witness to appear with the Clerk. Once it’s returned, you need to serve it on your witness.
How do I get medical records into evidence?
Sometimes, the parties agree to the admissibility of an injured worker’s medical records. If that’s not possible in your case, you may file a certified copy of your records using this form. The Court’s rules additionally allow into evidence medical records that are signed. This includes electronic signatures.
How do I get other documents, such as a medical bill, a job description or an email, into evidence?
You must testify regarding what the document is and explain why it is relevant to your case. Your opponent might object. If so, the judge will hear both sides and decide if it is admissible.
My employer’s lawyer objected to something I said while testifying on the grounds that it’s “hearsay.” How can I explain what happened if I can’t testify about what someone said to me?
As a general rule, you can’t testify about what someone said to you who is not in court. Instead, just explain your understanding of a situation. In the alternative, if you want the judge to hear what another person said, you may call that person as a witness. If you’re talking about what a doctor said, chances are it’s in the medical records, too, so the judge will know what happened when you were treated.
I disagree with the judge’s ruling. How do I appeal?
You’ll get a form requesting an appeal along with your copy of the judge’s order. The order will also give instructions for how to appeal. You must file the Notice of Appeal within seven business days of the date of the order, unless you wish to appeal a final compensation hearing. If it is a compensation order, you have thirty days to request an appeal with the Appeals Board and must use this form. After thirty days when the compensation order becomes final, you may, in the alternative seek review by the Tennessee Supreme Court. You must file either a transcript or a statement of evidence with the Appeals Board for full consideration of your case. The Appeals Board charges a $75 fee, but will waive it in appropriate cases if you file an affidavit of indigency and satisfy the criteria.
My employer and I have reached a settlement. How do we finalize it?
Are there any fees for court hearings or approvals?
There will be a $150 filing fee for all approvals as well as for final judgments. This is paid by the employer in most cases.