How Long Should a Work Comp Case Take?
This is a common but difficult question. I am sure it is no surprise that there is no exact answer. Some case may take a few months and some may last as long as a couple of years. In general the cases involving very severe work injuries or cases where the cause of the injury is in dispute will take the longest time. That is because these cases generally require more proof to be gathered before a trial can be set.
It is important that a worker's compensation case progress in a timely fashion but it is even more important that the case is put together correctly for trial. As the case moves along, your attorney should be able to tell you what is occurring in your case and what else is needed to get the case ready. An lawyer experienced with Tennessee Workers Compensation case can give you a good idea of what rough timeline based upon the needs of your case.
To understand why these cases take time it is important to understand the work that is generally required. Set forth below is an outline of how a Tennessee Workers Compensation case usually proceeds:
- The Employee Must Reach Maximum Medical Improvement. Before a case may be filed the treating physician must find that the employee has reached their maximum medical improvement. That does not mean the employee is completely well it just means the employee's medical condition is not likely to get any better. At this point the doctor should assess an impairment rating and set forth any physical restrictions.
- A Benefit Review Conference Must be Held. After your attorney receives your medical impairment rating and restrictions they can began to move forward with obtaining compensation for your injury. Before your attorney can file a lawsuit the TN Comp Act requires the parties to attend a benefit review conference (BRC). This is basically a mediation that is run by the State of Tennessee. If the case can be settled at the BRC then that will be the end of the claim and a check will be coming soon. If not, then the parties can proceed with litigation.
- Filing of a Lawsuit. If an impasse has been reached at the BRC the parties will file a Complaint setting forth the basic facts of the claim and what relief is requested. After the defendant has been served they have 30 days to file an answer.
- The Discovery Process Begins. This is the longest part and probably the most important part of preparing the lawsuit. Generally, written questions will be exchanged called interrogatories and a request for production of documents. The written discovery gives each side a chance to understanding the basics of any claims and defenses. Next deposition will be taken of the parties, doctors, experts and other necessary witnesses. Once this is completed the case can be set for trial.
- The Trial. Once the case is ready the parties will set the case for Trial. The date of the trial will depend on the parties schedules and the Court's availability. All workman's compensation cases in Tennessee are conducted in front of a Judge. There are no jury trials in these cases. This allows the cases to be set quicker and the trials are usually shorter.
- Appeals. Once the case in completed either party may file an appeal. This does not happen often but it does happen. If this occurs there will be additional delay in the case, however, interest will run on any judgment should the judgment be affirmed.
Again, each case is different. Some work comp cases will resolve early and some may go all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court. So be patient but do not be afraid to ask your lawyer what is being done and what needs to be done. Lawyers that have experience handling Tennessee Work Comp cases should be able to tell explain their strategy and give you a rough timeline.