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Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association

Back Injuries in Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Claims

Back injuries are very common in Tennessee Workers’ Compensation claims. We see them frequently among nurses, medical staff and emergency responders that lift patients. They also occur a lot with truck drivers and those involved in delivering goods. Construction workers are also at high risk for these injuries.

Construction Contractors and Truckers May Have to Determine Which State Law Applies to Their Claim

Tenn. Code Ann. Section 50-6-115 addresses these situations. Just because the work injury occurred in Tennessee does not mean that the claim is governed under Tennessee law. Also, an injury that occurred outside of Tennessee may be governed by Tennessee law if:

  1. The employment was principally localized within this state;
  2. The contract of hire was made in this state; or
  3. If at the time of the injury the injured worker was a Tennessee resident and there existed a substantial connection between this state and the particular employer and employee relationship.

Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-115.

Tennessee applies the election of remedies doctrine which means that if a trucker or contractor elects to have another State’s law applied to their claim, they may be barred from later bringing the claim in Tennessee. Goodwin v. Morristown Driver's Services, Inc., E2019-01517-SC-R3-WC, 2020 WL 3397940, at *2 (Tenn. Workers Comp. Panel June 15, 2020). In the Goodwin case, the injured worker was saved by the fact that a Georgia court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case and the employee then filed the claim in Tennessee.

The Most Common Defense to a Back Injury Claim Is That the Injured Worker Suffers From a Preexisting Condition

“Degenerative” is one buzz word to look out for in this defense. Degenerative disc disease is the natural aging of the spine. The insurance company may try to deny the claim if the medical reports show degenerative disc disease. They may also deny the claim if the injured worker has had back injury or back pain complaints in the past. Ultimately, the question of whether a back injury was caused by a work accident, even if partly preexisting, is a question for the Workers’ Compensation Doctor. Our experienced attorneys know how to help on these cases. However, waiting too long to ask for our help may mean that there is nothing we can do.

What Is a Back Injury Claim Worth?

The value of a back injury will largely be dependent on the level of permanent impairment from the accident. That rating comes from Chapter 17 of AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. A key factor is whether the injury causes verifiable radiculopathy. This means that even though the injury is in the spine there are symptoms from the injury such as pain, numbness, or tingling, that occur in the limbs or extremities. Disc herniation with verifiable radiculopathy can lead to an impairment rating of at least 10%. It is very important to choose the right Workers’ Compensation doctor at the beginning of a claim to prove radiculopathy. Many of the doctors fail to test for it. This could be the difference between a big claim and a small claim. This is the importance of involving one of our attorneys early.

Please contact our attorneys at (865) 691-2777 about your back injury claim.

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"Had it not been for The Lawyers of Brown & Roberto, I would be in a mess. I would not have been able to handle the paper work or things that would have been required to stand in a court of law myself. They got the most that I could have gotten for any injury that I had. I was more than pleased with the settlement. They handled my case promptly and very professionally." D. Blakeman
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