Changes to Workers’ Compensation System

Female: Legislatures considering making some drastic changes to the workers' compensation system and they’ll impact the workers of Tennessee in a big way. Attorney Jim Higgins with The Higgins Firm recently stopped by to explain.

Jim, thanks for stopping by today.

Jim Higgins: Sure.

Female: All right. Give us an overview of these changes we’re going to see and how this would have affected some clients you’ve worked with in the past? You have one specific example and how it would have impacted this person a lot differently?

Jim Higgins: Yes. You know, there are drastic changes in the comp system, and Tennessee is basically under the name of – I guess of being more business-friendly, which is a good thing, is reducing all of the benefits in the work comp system.

So the problem with that is it’s coming at the price of our Tennessee citizens that have been hurt at work. And they’re doing a couple of things, one, they’re setting up a work comp administrative system, so it’s all going to be run by the government now, so there’d be another big branch, expensive branch of government.

Female: OK.

Jim Higgins: And the other thing they’re doing is they’re just really reducing what someone would get under the comp law. If you’re hurt and you have a permanent injury, the law right now gives you enough money to kind of survive and pay your bills and make up for that financial loss, and they’re going to reduce that significantly.

Female: And this could have some big – a big impact on some people that you’ve worked with even in the past.

Jim Higgins: Yes.

Female: Talk about a recent story of someone.

Jim Higgins: Yes, and that’s what we were kind of talking about. I have a client, (Matt Webster) 00:01:21 who is just a good guy and (Matt) was injured in explosion at a factory and it was absolutely no fault of his own. He had just catastrophic severe burns, he was hospitalized for weeks, he still undergoes surgery, and he will never go back to that job again.

Female: Right.

Jim Higgins: And he’s got a wife and a boy and, you know, all – (Matt) was happy taking care of them. And under this new law, the amount of recovery (Matt) will get is maybe probably a little under a year’s worth of his salary there.

Female: And that’s it?

Jim Higgins: And that’s it. And, you know, he worked for a company that had $5.3 billion in sales.

Female: Wow.

Jim Higgins: And that’s what this law protects, is that company. And what will happen the next time I have someone like (Matt) if this law is changed is, of course, they’ll have this nominal sum of money and then no way to care for their family if they can't work so they will end up being on the taxpayers…

Female: Right, absolutely.

Jim Higgins: … and family members.

Female: And this is something that will affect him forever.

Jim Higgins: Oh, forever, you know, he will always have these problems and, you know, he’s got great family support, so he’ll be OK, but there is – it is something that the company should just be responsible for and people don’t get rich under comp that they allow some to survive and eat. And I think under these new laws, in the case like (Matt)’s, that he wouldn’t be and he’ll end up having to go on government subsidies and those things and just really shouldn’t have that.

Female: Right. We’re really helping out a lot of people. Jim, thank you so much.

Jim Higgins: Yes, sure.

Female: The Higgins Firm is serving Tennessee. Give them a call at 615-353-0930 or check them out at higginsfirm.com. We’ll be right back.