Benefit Review Process in a Tennessee Workers Compensation Claim
In essence, the Benefit Review process in a Tennessee Workers Compensation case is an administrative system established under the Workers' Compensation statutes that is supposed to help resolve disputes over benefits and ultimately help the parties try to settle the claim before a lawsuit has to be filed. If you are unable reach an agreement with the employer, only after you have exhausted the process at the TNDOL can you file a lawsuit in court.
In order to secure your right to benefits, you have to file a "Request for Benefit Review Conference" form ("Request for BRC") with the TNDOL within one year of your injury (TNDOL rules also require a copy of the Request for BRC be given to your employer and their workers compensation insurance company).
The Request for BRC is a form provided by the TNDOL which you must fill out setting forth basic information about your injury and the parties involved. This document is extremely important because it is what satisfies the initial statute of limitations. If you do not file this document within the one year period, your claim might be forever lost as untimely (while there are some exceptions to the general timeframe, it is not a wise idea to rely on those exceptions and we urge being overly cautious and instead using the one year from date of injury guideline). An experienced Workers' Compensation attorney will prepare and file the Request for BRC for you.
Once your Request for BRC is filed, if you have already reached "Maximum Medical Improvement" (MMI) for your injury-fancy doctor talk for "as good as you're going to get"-you will then be scheduled for what is called a "Benefit Review Conference". If you are not yet at MMI, you will continue your medical treatment until the doctor says that you have reached MMI. You (or your attorney) will then submit another TNDOL form telling the TNDOL that you are ready to go to a BRC, and one will be scheduled.
If during this preliminary stage before the BRC you are having troubles with getting any benefits from your employer-for example, they won't pay for your medical treatment, or they are not paying your temporary disability benefit payments while you are off work because of the injury-you can file a "Request for Assistance" with the TNDOL asking a TNDOL employee to review the case and order the employer to provide the benefits. This is part of the pre-litigation function the Workers' Compensation statutes have given to the TNDOL.