Any person who believes that they may have a workers’ compensation claim should act diligently to protect their rights under Tennessee’s workers’ compensation law. Under Tennessee law, injured workers have a finite time within which a workers’ compensation can be filed. This time period is known as the statute of limitations. If the injured employee fails to file a claim within the prescribed time period then the injured worker loses any right to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Tennessee’s workers’ compensation law provides different statute of limitations depending on whether the worker has received any benefits from the employer. If the injured worker has not received compensation benefits from the employer then the claim must be filed within one year following the accident resulting injury. To prevent the statute of limitations from expiring, the injured worker must file a notice of injury with the employer within 30 days after the accident occurred. The 30-day period may be extended if the the injuries occur as the result of gradual or cumulative events or trauma. Furthermore, within 30 days of the notice of injury, the injured worker must file a petition for benefit determination. Both the notice of injury and petition for benefit determination must be filed with the with the Tennessee Division of Workers’ Compensation within the one-year period following the date of the accident.
The statute of limitations differs slightly if the injured worker has already received compensation benefits voluntarily paid by the employer. In this case, the injured worker must file a petition for determination within one year from the latter of the date of the last authorized treatment or the time the employer ceased to make payments of compensation to or on behalf of the employee.
Notably, the one-year statute of limitations may be tolled if the injury suffered from the workplace accident is not discovered until later than one year following the workplace accident. For example, an injured employee who receives a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder that is not discovered until one year after the workplace accident nevertheless may be allowed to file a workers’ compensation claim. In this situation, the statute of limitations may not start to run until after the injured employee discovers the injury. To avoid a situation where an injured employee may unnecessarily delay filing a workers’ compensation claim, the court considers the statute of limitations to commence “at that time when the employee, by a reasonable exercise of diligence and care, would have discovered that a compensable injury had been sustained.” This is typically referred to as the “discovery rule.” Also, in certain circumstances for minors, the one-year statute of limitations does not start for minors until the age of 18 years. Finally, in the case of a physical or mental capacity of the injured person then the one-year time period starts from the date when the incapacity ceases.
You should not wait too long to file a claim for workers’ compensation. If you believe that the one-year statute of limitations may be approaching, it is important to reach out to an experienced Tennessee workers’ compensation attorney. Otherwise, you may lose the right to obtain important financial compensation benefits under Tennessee’s Workers’ Compensation Act.