Recently, I had a woman come into my office and explain to me the sad and very discouraging situation she was in. I felt so strongly about what she was going through because of the new Tennessee workers’ compensation laws that I decided to write a letter.
The letter below was sent to Governor Haslam on October 30, 2013.
Dear Governor Haslam,
The other day a woman came to my office with a workers’ compensation claim. She’d already seen a workers’ compensation doctor, who gave her a 0 disability rating and told her to get back to work. She begged for an MRI; he said no. Case closed.
There’s only one problem: this woman can’t possibly do her job right now. A conveyor belt crushed her hand so badly that she can’t close it, yet her job requires her to lift heavy objects. And now that she has a disability rating of 0, her employer can cut off her benefits and even fire her.
Sitting across from me in my office, she sobbed about the prospect of getting fired and having no other options. “I know I’m ugly,” she said, “but I was born with a strong body.” All she wanted to do was keep her job, and without the protection of workers’ compensation, she knew it was unlikely.
Never before, in my 30 years of practice, would this woman’s injury get a 0 rating. Yet suddenly, I see situations like hers all the time.
What could have caused such a change?
Under the new Tennessee workers’ compensation laws, which are already in partial effect and go into full effect in 2014, a small panel of doctors selected by the insurance companies will determine the fates of injured workers.
These specialists may be the best in the city on a normal day. They may be well-renowned, but they are also assigned by insurance companies, and they know their decisions are almost impossible to reverse. Perhaps more importantly, they know the insurance companies can drop them from the list if they treat workers too fairly.
If one of these doctors says you don’t have a severe enough injury to justify a disability rating, what options do you really have? Even the appeal process usually comes back to doctors approved by the insurance companies.
This means there’s no judicial recourse. Injured workers are robbed of their right to a day in court – a right clearly established in the United States and Tennessee Constitutions.
You have claimed these new laws are good for business. I’m sure they are. They’re no doubt good for the insurance business. But what about the business of these workers? What about their economies, their families, their rights?
What am I to say to the woman crying across my desk because her life’s work has been taken from her? She’s lost her health insurance and income at the very time she needs and deserves them most. She has a family to feed, and she’s lost use of a hand with which to feed them.
Should I just help her file bankruptcy? Is that what “good for business” looks like?
Fortunately, even though some people are trying very hard to make sure no one gets a defense, they aren’t succeeding entirely. There are still people out there demanding their rights, and the courts are listening. I can still get this woman an independent medical exam to help her in the settlement process, but why should she have to fight such a hard battle, when she’s the one who’s injured?
Governor Haslam, I hope you will take a sincere look at the way your workers’ compensation policy is affecting the people of your state. Otherwise, our state’s able workforce may become too injured and bankrupted to attract the big businesses you so desperately seem to want.
Darrell L. Castle
Our firm is dedicated to helping people who have been injured at their jobs. We want to make sure you get the compensation and help from your employer that you are entitled to.
If you’re suffering from a work-related injury and have any questions, contact us online or call us at (901) 327-1212 and one of our experienced workers’ comp attorneys will be glad to discuss your situation at no charge.