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New Development in Tennessee Workers' Compensation: Process Change for Requests for Assistance

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has announced an upcoming change in the way Requests for Assistance will be handled. Effective May 1, 2012, the Request for Assistance process will have two stages. In the first stage, a Workers' Compensation Specialist II or III will assist the parties in resolving areas of disagreement. At this stage, the Specialist will be focused on gathering documentation and information about the dispute. The Specialist will also attempt to help the parties reach a voluntary resolution of the disputed issue. If no voluntary resolution can be reached, then the Request for Assistance will be reassigned to a Workers' Compensation Specialist IV, who is a licensed attorney. This Specialist will conduct an informal teleconference and will then issue an order.

According to the Department of Labor, this new process is intended to provide the parties more opportunity to settle their disagreements, to improve the timeliness of resolution, and to reflect feedback received from various stakeholders in the workers' compensation process.

For employers and workers' compensation insurance carriers, this new process will bring about some important differences. First, it is anticipated that the Request for Assistance process will be quicker, with more stringent deadlines being implemented. For instance, the Specialist II or III will only have seventeen days to gather information and attempt to negotiate a voluntary resolution. Second, the quicker deadlines will mean that employers and carriers will have less time to formulate a response to the Request for Assistance. Third, employers and carriers are accustomed to having Requests for Assistance decided by Specialists in their local Department of Labor office. However, under the procedure, the Workers' Compensation Specialist IV to whom the Request for Assistance is reassigned will not necessarily be located in the geographically-closest Department of Labor office. The Specialist IV who decides the Request for Assistance could actually be in another part of the state, and therefore might be less familiar with the local doctors, attorneys, and employers.

If you have any questions about this new process and what it will mean for your workers' compensation claims, please contact any of the workers' compensation attorneys in Wimberly Lawson's four offices.

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