Dedicated Chattanooga Injury Lawyers Assisting Government Employees
Straightforward counsel for local, state and federal workers in Tennessee and North Georgia
Workers’ compensation is a state-run program that allows employees who are injured on the job to collect benefits while they recover. Every state in the country has some version of this program. But what do you do if you work for the state or federal government, and you get hurt? Can you collect workers’ compensation?
The short answer is “No” – but that does not mean you don’t have other options available to you. At Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law, our Chattanooga workplace injury lawyers help public employees in Tennessee and North Georgia who have been hurt on the job. There are other ways to collect compensation for your injuries; let our family guide you through the process, so you can focus on getting well.
Tennessee’s Claims Commission and public employee injury claims
Tennessee State employees are indelible for workers’ compensation. Instead, they must make a claim via the Tennessee Claims Commission, which is overseen by the Tennessee Department of Treasury. The Division of Claims Administration actually works with a third-party to help process claims by State employees; this is important, because the state itself normally handles all workers’ comp claims.
The State has very specific rules about what you must do if you’re hurt while on the job. You can download the complete list, but here is a short rundown:
- Tell your supervisor immediately.
- Call the Workplace Injury & First Notice of Loss Call Center right after the incident occurred, and talk to a registered nurse.
- If the nurse says you need to seek medical treatment, go seek treatment.
- When you are at the doctor’s office, make sure to tell the doctor you were hurt at work, and that you will be filing a claim with the State.
- If you are given a prescription, make sure the pharmacist knows it is related to a worksite injury or illness.
- Do not give your health insurance to the doctor.
If you sustained property damage – like you might if you were injured in a car crash while in the course of your duties – you can submit a claim for damages as well. That form can be accessed here, but an attorney from our firm can help you fill it in correctly, to ensure that every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed.
As you can see, the process in place for State employees is very similar to the standard workers’ compensation filing process: tell your boss, see a doctor, file the paperwork. Just like with a non-State employee claim, you’ll be asked to see specific doctors and undergo specific tests, which need to be reported back.
The main difference is this: the providers and services used by the State are different than those used by private employees. As such, we need to follow the State’s rules to the letter, or you risk being denied compensation.
How long will it take to get my benefits after I’m injured?
Under TN Code § 9-8-402 (2017), you must make your claim within one year of the accident which resulted in your injury. The Division of Claims Administration has 90 days from that notice to investigate your claim, and then either approve or deny it.
If it is approved, you’ll get your settlement within one year, though most people get their money much more quickly. If it is denied, you have 90 days to file a claim with the claims commission.
However, “If the Division of Claims Administration does not approve or deny the claim within that time period, then the jurisdiction of the claim automatically transfers to the Tennessee Claims Commission. If this occurs, the Division of Claims Administration will notify you of the transfer,” per the TN Treasury Department. Any denied claim for more than $25,000 will also be transferred.
Help! I’m a federal worker who has been injured on the job.
If a federal employee is injured on the job, there is coverage available – but where you file may depend on what you do. Most federal workers can make a claim through the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA). The exceptions are:
- Railroad workers, who make their claims through the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, or FELA.
- Longshoremen and harbor workers, who make claims through the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.
- Coal miners, who make black lung claims through the Black Lung Benefits Act.
- Independent contractors who work for the federal government, but are not employed by the federal government.
The U.S. Department of Labor oversees the Division of Federal Employees’ Compensation (DFEC). The DEFC handles all FECA claims. Per §8102. Compensation for disability or death of employee:
(a) The United States shall pay compensation as specified by this subchapter for the disability or death of an employee resulting from personal injury sustained while in the performance of his duty, unless the injury or death is–
(1) caused by willful misconduct of the employee;
(2) caused by the employee’s intention to bring about the injury or death of himself or of another; or
(3) proximately caused by the intoxication of the injured employee.
Under this plan, federal employees are entitled to 66 and 2/3 of their salary, should the injury render the federal employee disabled or permanently disfigured in some way. Additional payments may be made for dismemberment (you can find the full list here).
The statute of limitations on federal claims
The federal government gives injured workers much more leeway when it comes to making a claim (most likely because, given the sheer number of employees and its reputation for red tape, it could not possibly handle the same timelines of a state or private workers’ comp program). Under §8122. Time for making claim:
(a) An original claim for compensation for disability or death must be filed within 3 years after the injury or death. Compensation for disability or death, including medical care in disability cases, may not be allowed if claim is not filed within that time unless–
(1) the immediate superior had actual knowledge of the injury or death within 30 days. The knowledge must be such to put the immediate superior reasonably on notice of an on-the-job injury or death; or
(2) written notice of injury or death as specified in section 8119 of this title was given within 30 days.
Federal workers do enjoy some “perks” that private employees don’t: anyone with an occupational illness is eligible for benefits after only three days (a very short waiting period), and your agency will pay you directly for up to 45 days if you are temporarily disabled. If your injury takes longer than that to heal, then FECA takes over.
Still the process of filing for benefits is complicated; you want an experienced work injury lawyer on your side. Wagner & Wagner can help. If your claim has been denied, call us as soon as you can to set up your appointment. If you are a government contractor, contact us about helping you file a claim through different channels.
Protecting the rights of injured government employees
Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law respects the work of state and federal workers, and understands the difficulties of filing a claim after an injury. We are familiar with the process of bringing a claim against the government, and can help you avoid the common pitfalls when filing that claim. For a free initial consultation with one of our Chattanooga worksite injury attorneys, please call 423.799.3532 or fill out our contact form. We serve clients in North Georgia, Cleveland, TN, Chattanooga and all surrounding counties.