Workers’ compensation protects seriously injured Tennesseans from losing everything. It is a compromise that has protected workers in our state since 1919 and it is under attack. Governor Bill Haslam has introduced legislation that will drastically reduce benefits and keep insurance companies from facing a judge in the courts by creating a purely administrative system, much like unemployment is today.
The new system will have administrative judges appointed by the Governor. The cards will be stacked against every injured worker. The costs of this system are enormous and will be paid by taxpayers. In addition, if insurance companies get out of paying for injuries, then those costs will ultimately be paid by taxpayers through Medicare, TennCare and Social Security.
But, you wonder, don’t the legislators care about the rights of citizens over those of big corporations and insurance companies? No, they don’t. The Chairman of the House and Human Resources Committee yesterday was filmed saying he was going to “freight-train” the bill through the legislative process, regardless of what the opposing side has to say. Here is the link to the video of his remarks. Here is an article about the open-mic gaffe. In his remarks, Chairman Eldridge was responding to a letter to the editor that you can read here. When asked to explain his remarks, the Chairman refused to talk.
Today, January 2, 2013 ends a more than 4 year battle for my client Debbie who was seriously injured when she fell at work in October of 2008. Her employer’s workers’ compensation carrier initially accepted responsibility and paid for her medical care. However, when she was released to return to work, her employer terminated her and denied her any more medical treatment or other benefits. Needing help, Debbie turned to me to help her fight the insurance company.
I filed a workers’ compensation case in Nashville for Debbie. The insurance company, having originally agreed that Debbie was hurt at work, denied her claim and argued that she was entitled to nothing. After at least 10 depositions, including many experts, we had a three day trial resulting in a large judgment for Debbie. The case settled a few days later to avoid an appeal resulting in a $115,000 payment.
Not every case gets this involved. But some do, and when an insurance company treats an injured person like Debbie was treated, you need an aggressive Nashville injury attorney to fight for you. Whether its a car wreck, construction injury or work comp claim, insurance companies in Tennessee often play hard-ball, trying to save money on valid claims. If you know of someone who needs help like Debbie did, have them call me or email me.
With the New Year come new laws. Tennessee legislative blogger Tom Humphrey has compiled a list of laws that go into effect today, January 1, 2013. You can find the list here. The new laws effect small businesses, workers’ compensation, drivers’ licenses and teachers among others.
If you are a Plaintiff in an injury case in Tennessee, your attorney may tell you that you have to give a deposition. An injury lawsuit is started with a Complaint. Once filed and served on the proper people or companies, the Defendants file an Answer to the Complaint where they admit or deny the allegations filed.
Written questions called interrogatories are usually served after the Answer is filed. Interrogatories are written questions about the injury case, the Nashville car wreck or work injury, the people involved and the claims asserted. This gives everyone a heads up on what the case is about. In Tennessee, these questions do not have to seek relevant information; they only have to seek “discoverable” information. That topic is for another post but it basically means the questions have to be tailored to find facts that may be important to some other question or topic in the case. For example, “Where do you go to church?” is an acceptable question because there may be potential jurors who go to the same church and know you.
After everyone shares their responses, some injury cases settle, some proceed. A deposition can occur at any time but it usually happens at this stage, once the other side has the medical records, bills and an idea about the claims.
A deposition is a formal question and answer session usually held at the attorney’s office. It is “on the record” meaning the witness is sworn to tell the truth and a court reporter writes down every word spoken. I prepare every client for the deposition based on the case, the important facts and the problems the case may have. The best Nashville injury attorneys never prepare every case and every client the same way. Deposition preparation depends on your comfort level, who the defense attorney is, the facts of the case, among many other factors.
Many people have concerns about what will be asked, how important is this or that. The most important rule to remember in a deposition is to tell the truth.
A deposition can be a great experience, if you are prepared, because it is usually the first time, and the last time before trial, that the injured person gets to tell their story about what happened and how it has changed their life both at home and work. Proper preparation makes this easy.
As a Tennessee injury attorney, I have handled many cases where someone injured their neck in a car accident. These types of injuries can be associated with headaches, soreness, stiffness, arm pain and weakness. This is a common injury from a car wreck because the head and neck and not protected in a collision and take the force of the impact. For some, the pain goes away with rest, medication and physical therapy.
Sometimes, after a car wreck your doctor will order an MRI of the neck (“cervical spine”) if the pain does not go away. It is very common for the results of that test to show degenerative disc disease (sometimes listed a “DDD”). Insurance companies may use this condition to argue that you had this problem all along, well before the car collision. Many doctors will agree that degenerative disc disease is not caused by an automobile accident but rather due to age, like arthritis.
One study I have seen suggests 85 percent of people will have evidence of degenerative disc disease by age 50. Indeed, as we age, depending on activity levels and genetics, we all are subject to this condition. However, the key differential in an injury case is the fact that most people with DDD have no symptoms, no pain and no disability. A motor vehicle collision or work injury can aggravate, advance and make this condition worse. It can make it painful where there was no pain before. The impact can aggravate the condition to the extent that other medical treatments are necessary including traction, therapy, epidural steroid injections and even surgery.
Recently I talked to a friend who had been hurt at work in Tennessee. He was in the hospital for three days. He asked me if he needed an attorney for a work comp claim and told me he was concerned about making his employer pay for his medical bills. He did not know that his employer would not be paying out of pocket; rather, his employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier would be responsible.
Many Tennessee workers have the same misconception as my friend. In Tennessee employers who have 5 or more employees are required to obtain workers’ compensation insurance. Making a claim for workers’ compensation insurance benefits is not unlike making a claim on your employer provided health insurance. They have the policy to protect you if you get hurt.
If you are injured during the course and scope of your employment, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier is required by law to pay for your medical treatment, your mileage for driving to medical appointments, your time missed from work as a result of your injury, as well as compensating you for any permanent injuries you may sustain as a result of your work injury in Tennessee. It’s the law, but they don’t always follow the law. Sometimes, the insurance company only follows one part of the law but not all of it. That is why you need a Nashville workers’ compensation attorney.
If you or someone you know has been injured on the job in Nashville, it is important that they talk with an attorney. Just because your employer has workers’ compensation insurance does not mean that the insurance company will actually pay you the benefits that you are entitled. Many times, workers’ compensation insurance companies pay out the bear minimum to injured Nashville workers. This is just not fair! That is why it is so important for injured employees to seek an experienced middle Tennessee workers’ compensation lawyer.
I previously posted that General Motors and the UAW ratified their agreement that included plans to bring back GM workers to the Spring Hill plant. Many of my GM employee clients have been waiting on this day. Some have retired, others have transferred and still others have been patiently waiting but eagerly anticipating more automobile manufacturing jobs in Spring Hill.
The Tennessean reported today that GM and the UAW will soon announce concrete plans to reopen the Spring Hill plant for vehicle manufacturing. Although the plant has been making engines and sometimes other parts, there currently is no mass production of a vehicle in Spring Hill. That should change soon. When it does, thousands of people will get back to work.
GM works may find a return to this physical type work hard. I have learned from representing hundreds of injured GM workers that, after an extended lay-off, the return to work can lead to injuries, especially shoulder injuries. It is important to remember that every on the job injury in Tennessee must be properly reported within 30 days. At GM, this is usually done by filing an incident report at the onsite medical facility.
Back to the news, it is interesting that Gov. Bill Haslam will be attending the announcement of the Spring Hill opening. No doubt, he will be touting this as his own creation of jobs for the blue collar worker. This is ironic. His jobs bills included tort reform, which limits injured person’s ability to hold a corporation fully responsible for the most catastrophic injuries in Tennessee. We expect the Governor to soon push for an overhaul of the workers’ compensation system, stripping an injured Tennessee worker’s right to have a trial at the Courthouse, the only level playing field left. Gov. Haslam and his pro-big corporation bills help only the 1%. The other 99% want to work and appreciate the jobs but are not the winners of the Governor’s legislation. Intsead, it appears this battle was won by the UAW, instead Governor and the Tennessee legislature who will no doubt claim credit.
The United Auto Workers has announced that it has ratified its contract with General Motors. You can read about the deal announced today here. As part of this package, the GM assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee will re-open and hopefully our friends in the auto industry and all of the subsidiaries that supply GM with parts will get back to work very soon. It is reported that 1,700 jobs will be created at the plaint in Maury County.
Read the UAW’s statement here.
My firm has represented GM and Saturn employees injured on the job since the plant opened in the early 1990’s. GM workers’ compensation claims are not your typical claim. They are much more complicated. Therefore, as our GM clients and friends get back to work, let me know if you are injured and need Tennessee workers’ compensation attorney to protect your wages and your health care.
I am proud to report to our General Motors’ workers compensation clients that the Maury County Circuit Court recently made a landmark ruling in one of my cases. Many autoworkers know that General Motors filed bankruptcy in 2009 and sold its company in a bankruptcy sale to a new company to create “New GM.”
That sale opened rights for many injured workers to have their previous Tennessee workers’ compensation settlement re-opened and increased. However, for employees of the Spring Hill plant that were injured before January 1, 2005, GM took the position that those workers lost their jobs at the time of the transition from Saturn to GM and were therefore not eligible for money out of their previous workers’ compensation case as a result of the bankruptcy.
I traveled to Detroit for corporate depositions of several key GM executives to prove one point: that GM controlled Saturn to such an extent that they had to be considered “one and the same.” The case was recently tried in Maury County. The trial judge agreed and ordered that GM had such dominion and control over Saturn ever since its existence that they were to be considered the same employer for workers’ compensation purposes despite the 2005 transition to GM. That decision will be challenged in the Court of Appeals but for now confirms GM and Saturn never were completely separate entities. Therefore, many GM employees injured prior to 2005 may have additional rights and may be entitled to more money.