The Tennessee Supreme Court has recently denied TN workers’ compensation benefits to a lineman for Fayetteville Public Utilities who was injured on the job.
What is important, and disturbing, about this case is that the Supreme Court held that the worker, by removing his safety gloves, engaged in a “willful” act of disregard for established safety policies. They reversed an earlier court’s decision and ordered that he be denied benefits.
The reason this case is important is it changes what has always been a “no-fault” based system to help injured workers. In other words, the system was established with an understanding that accidents occur at work that are both the fault of the employee and the employer. We all make mistakes. Based upon that understanding the law was drafted so a worker does not get punished if he accidentally causes and accident nor will the employer be punished if it accidentally causes an accident. The sole consideration was whether the employee got hurt at work. With this case, however, we move away from that system and now punish an employee if they make a mistake and fell to follow a safety rule. Obviously, no one wants a life changing injury but now if you accidentally cause an accident you may be left out in the cold. To the contrary, if the employer breaks a safety rule then there is no repercussions under the Tennessee Workers Comp Act. They employer will be protected by the act regardless of fault.
As a Tennessee Workers Comp Lawyer I have been litigating these cases for almost twenty years now. Over these years I have seen the legislature and the courts take away basic benefits that will help an employee get the medical help and financial assistance they need to survive. Although there are still benefits available the fight has become harder over the years and I have seen good working men and women surfer. It is unfortunate.
If you have been injured on the job, please call one of our Tennessee Workers Compensation Lawyers today.