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Our callers dealing with workplace injuries often report not knowing how to start finding assistance with their workers’ compensation matters. The good news is that there are many free resources available to assist the unrepresented injured worker. In this blog post, we thought it would be helpful to overview some of the available tools.
Ombudsman Program – (800) 332-2667, Monday - Friday, 7:00 AM - 4:30 PM CT. The Ombudsman Program exists “to assist injured or disabled employees” – among others – “in protecting their rights” when they “are not represented by an attorney.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-216(a). There are a variety of situations where an ombudsman might be able to provide assistance to an injured worker, including (1) problems obtaining a list of approved medical providers, (2) issues with authorization for medical treatment, (3) delays in receiving your benefits, and (4) claim denials even though you believe your injury was work-related. Currently there are four non-attorney and two attorney ombudsmen working for the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC). The licensed attorney ombudsmen are permitted to provide limited legal advice. Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-216(e)(3).
Mediation – Free mediation services are offered in all workers’ compensation cases, and are actually required in most cases before they can proceed to litigation. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution where a mediator assists the parties in voluntarily reaching an agreement, and it has the benefits of often being quicker and less expensive than litigation. The BWC has trained mediation specialists who are well versed in Tennessee workers’ compensation laws and are striving to facilitate resolutions. Mediation occurs in private, and although the mediators are employees of the State, they do not have a stake in the outcome of your case. If you were injured on/after July 1, 2014, you can begin the mediation process by filing a “Petition for Benefit Determination.”
WC Bot – The “WC Bot” is a newer tool offered by the BWC that utilizes artificial intelligence to help injured workers fill out several relevant workers’ compensation forms at no cost. When you use the WC Bot, you will create an online account and then the WC Bot will “interview” you either through speech or text. The WC Bot can assist you in completing forms like the “Petition for Benefit Determination” and the “Request for Expedited Hearing.” The information shared with the WC Bot is kept private, and the WC Bot saves your progress so you can take a break and come back within two weeks to finish the process. The WC Bot was made possible through a partnership between the BWC and the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services, LMU’s Duncan School of Law, and LawDroid.
Court Opinion Databases and Access to T.C.A. – The public can access the orders and opinions issued by the Tennessee workers’ compensation courts. The BWC has partnered with Court Listener to offer a free, searchable database, with the decisions from both the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims and the Appeals Board. The BWC also has a link on their website to the relevant code, where you can peruse the workers’ compensation laws in Tennessee under Title 50, Chapter 6 of the T.C.A.
Other Resources – There are also numerous resources online designed to provide information to the injured worker about their rights. Here are a few more links that might be helpful:
Of course, if you still find yourself needing a worker’s compensation attorney, we hope you will give us a call for an attorney referral at (865) 522-7501 or online at www.knoxbar.org/lawyerfinder.
Special thanks to Presiding Judge Timothy W. Conner of the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board for inspiring and contributing to the content of this blog post.
If you’re looking for a lawyer and just don’t know where to start, the Knoxville Bar Association’s LRIS is a great place to begin. We match you with a lawyer that suits your needs. Our trusted attorneys provide you with a free consultation so that you can decide if it’s the right fit. Want to learn more? Call us at (865) 522-7501 or visit knoxbar.org/lawyerfinder.
The materials contained in this blog are intended to, and do, provide only a broad overview of various legal topics. The general information contained in this material is not designed nor intended to be a substitute for legal advice on a specific legal issue or question. In addition, the information provided in this material is only general advice and may not be applicable to apparent similar individual problems, since only slight changes in facts change the applicable advice. If you have a legal problem or question, please consult an attorney.
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