Can an unrepresented employee have a workers’ compensation settlement approved by affidavit for injuries which occurred on July 1, 2014 or subsequently in Tennessee?

In the past courts in the State of Tennessee approved settlements of employees who were not represented by affidavit.  This is especially true for those claims in which the claimant was receiving an award which approximated the value of the claim and the employee retained the right to open medical treatment per the terms and conditions of the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Act.  For injuries which occurred on July 1, 2014 or subsequently, however, the legislature has created a new statute which precludes this.

More specifically, Tennessee Code Annotated § 50-6-240 states, “in approving settlements, a workers’ compensation judge shall consider all pertinent factors and if the injured employee is not represented by counsel, then the workers’ compensation judge shall thoroughly inform the employee of the scope of benefits available under this chapter and the employee’s rights and the procedures necessary to protect those rights.

When this was first drafted it seemed the administrative law judges may handle settlements of this type telephonically.  Based upon representations made by the Department of Labor, they are not going to handle settlements of this type in this fashion at the outset.  As a result, if the injured employee is not represented by counsel then that employee will need to present to the Tennessee Department of Labor for approval of his/her workers’ compensation settlement.

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