Tennessee Construction Injury Law: Workers’ Compensation Immunity
On a yearly basis, construction workers are subject to the possibility of injury and, in some cases, even fatality. Reports have shown that tens of thousands are injured and hundreds killed annually by work-related accidents. Unfortunately, most of those injured in these accidents discover that they are not allowed to file suit against their employers due to the workers’ compensation exclusive remedy provision.
The experienced construction injury attorneys at InjuryTN understand that workers’ compensation usually is not the only option available to those who have been injured in the workplace. Nonetheless, it is still commonly the course of action that can be taken against the employer. Any other remedies would likely be provided by third-party insurance settlements, public benefits, or other lawsuits.
Workers’ compensation is the product of an agreement made between an employer and their workers. In the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, employers made a deal with workers, forfeiting their right to sue an employer and, in exchange, in the event that a worker was injured at work, the employer would be responsible for medical expenses and lost wages during their recovery. There would also be benefits in the event of death to the victim’s family.
Sadly, though, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration expounded in their 2015 report on these securities having been significantly deteriorating over the last few years. This report entailed OSHA exploring how employer-subsidized workplace injury programs were recently cut, and even referred to the system itself as “broken.”
More studies, as reported by ProPublica have shown that within the last 10 years, more than 30 states – Tennessee included – have passed laws regarding workers’ compensation which make qualifying much more difficult for those with specific diseases or injuries.
The culmination of this evidence is not meant to imply that workers’ compensation is never worth pursuing. On the contrary, it often is and provides much needed relief for countless families. However, receiving workers’ compensation is much more difficult than it was years ago, which is why it is so important to employ the assistance of an accomplished law firm to protect your rights and fight for your best interest.
This is partly due to the fact that access to such benefits has been reduced so substantially in addition to having exclusive remedy prohibiting further legal action against an employer. Cases such as this may also necessitate the exploration of third-party litigation.
On construction sites, this might involve the evaluation of responsibility by the general contractor, subcontractor, site supervisor or owner, product manufacturers, engineering firms, designers, and others whose conduct has resulted in a worker’s injury.
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Exemptions to the Exclusive Remedy Provisions
Ultimately, there will only ever be two exemptions to workers’ compensation exclusive remedy provisions in Tennessee: the inability to obtain workers’ compensation coverage or intentional tort. With the former having been codified in Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-108, stating that in the event of an employer failing to provide workers’ compensation to an employee for injuries sustained at work, the injured worker will have two options. They can either file a lawsuit or choose to collect what would have been received from their employer by filing a similar claim.
However, the positive aspect of an intentional tort is that when workers win these cases, they have a better chance of obtaining higher compensatory relief. These cases will necessitate the worker to provide evidence that the employer acted negligently, however, the employer won’t be allowed to cite the defense of another worker’s negligence, comparative negligence, or assumed risk by the injured worker.
The only additional exemption would be an intentional tort, which is generally incredibly difficult for the majority of injured workers to attain. Regardless, it is still pertinent to be aware of this option as an exemption to the exclusive remedy provision.
Tennessee law specifies that an employer may be held responsible for workplace accidents in the event that they have caused a worker injury or fatality and either intentionally injured the worker or participated in an activity that the employer was aware was “virtually certain” to result in injury or fatality. In such cases, the worker will also be required to prove that they were not aware of the dangers due to their not being apparent. Additionally, they may need to prove that the employer deliberately misrepresented or concealed the dangers that existed with the intent of not allowing the worker to make an informed decision about whether the work could be completed safely.
Again, such circumstances are highly unusual, as the criteria to meet these requirements is so specific and requires proof. Nonetheless, our experienced Tennessee construction accident lawyers are ready to help you explore all possible options when it comes to compensation for injuries or fatalities.
Workers’ Compensation Fatality Benefits
If a construction worker has been fatally injured on the job, survivors may be entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits. Tennessee workers’ compensation law provides benefits to the surviving members of a worker’s family, often the spouse or other dependent, after that worker has suffered fatal occupational injuries as well as diseases.
Tennessee law permits the benefits to be paid out for a workplace fatality which takes place within a year of the incident, or within 5 years of having a continuous disability. The highest amount which can be paid out is $150,000, with an additional $7500 towards funeral expenses, which will require payment within two weeks of having received the bill.
Contact Experienced Tennessee Construction Injury Attorneys
If you have any further questions regarding the process of obtaining workers’ compensation benefits or you need help determining whether third-party litigation would be a feasible option given the circumstances of your case, contact our firm today. Call our office at (615) 640-HURT or fill out an online contact form to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation with an experienced construction accident attorney. No costs or fees will be incurred until we win your case.