Tennessee requires all businesses to have workers comp for employees, with only a few exceptions.

Workers compensation insurance typically pays some lost wages and the medical bills for a worker who's hurt while performing a job-related task. The types of injuries that are usually covered by workers comp include breathing problems, broken bones and burns.

Tennessee workers compensation law defines certain details of who must be covered, who can be exempt from coverage, and the limits of workers of workers comp payments. The Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development also has a page with helpful information for employers.

Who has to be covered by Tennessee workers compensation?


Can any employees opt out of Tennessee workers compensation with a waiver?

Yes - corporate officers can. As of March 1, 2011, corporate officers engaged in the construction industry may obtain an exemption through the Secretary of State's office.

Non-construction sole proprietors are automatically exempt, but can elect to be covered. As of March 1, 2011, sole proprietors engaged in the construction industry may obtain an exemption through the Secretary of State's office.

Agricultural employees are exempted in general.


Is self-insurance for workers comp allowed in Tennessee?

Yes, for individual employers, groups of employers and political subdivisions. Political subdivisions in Tennessee are typically the state or a city, county, special district, school district or public agency.

By self-insuring, a business assumes responsibility for paying their own workers comp claims. A self-insured company typically hires a claims service company to handle claims administration and other services.


Are there exclusions for:

Small employers? Yes, employers who employ fewer than five workers. In the construction industry, employers are required to cover their employees, even if they have only one. Owners and officers in the construction industry can apply for an exemption through the Secretary of State's office from the requirement to cover themselves with workers compensation insurance. Also, there is an available exception for certain members of recognized sects.

Agricultural employers? Yes.

Domestic employers? Yes.

Independent contractors? Yes.

Casual employees? Yes.

Volunteers? Yes.

Professional athletes? No.

Tennessee workers comp medical benefits


Is there a Tennessee workers comp fee schedule?

Yes.

Fee schedules define payments for surgery, radiology, hospital services, chiropractic care, ambulance service, prescription drugs and other medical services for an injured worker.


Are there limits on medical treatment?

Yes, services are subject to the medical fee schedule and services must be deemed a necessary, appropriate, efficient and accepted standard.

Chiropractic visits may be authorized for up to 12 visits per back injury. More than 12 visits to a chiropractic must be specifically approved by the employer or insurance carrier.


Who makes the initial choice of treating physician?

The employee, from a list provided by the employer.

Disability payments for injured Tennessee workers

Workers comp generally helps replace some lost income when an employee cannot work due to a job-related injury. Based on both temporary and permanent disability, state law specifies limits on the disability payment amounts and lengths.


How are temporary total disability (TTD) payments calculated?

66 2/3% of the employee's pre-injury weekly wage, subject to a minimum and maximum.

Weekly minimum: $128.70

Weekly maximum: $943.80

Maximum length of TDD benefits: The duration of the TTD for physical injuries; 104 weeks for psychological injuries; 104 weeks after the commencement of pain management.

How are permanent total disability (PTD) payments calculated?

66 ⅔% of the employee's pre-injury wage, subject to a minimum and maximum.

Weekly minimum: $128.70

Weekly maximum: $858

Are there cost of living increases for PTD payments? No.

Maximum length of PTD benefits: Until "old age" social security-eligible age (or 260 weeks, where the date of injury is on or after age 60).

How are permanent partial disability (PPD) payments calculated?

Percentage of the disability multiplied by 450 weeks multiplied by ⅔ of average weekly wage (AWW), up to the statewide average weekly wage (SAWW). Additional multipliers may apply if no return to work.

Weekly minimum: $128.70

Weekly maximum: $858

Fatality benefits under Tennessee workers compensation law

Maximum burial benefit: $7,500

Dependency benefits, weekly minimum / maximum: $128.70/$858

When do children's dependency benefits end? At age 18; age 22 if a student; if the child is disabled, benefits can continue but cannot exceed the maximum total benefit.

Other injuries covered by Tennessee workers compensation

Mental stress with no physical injury? Yes.

Cumulative trauma (such as injuries caused by repeated exposure or repetitive motion)? Yes, workers compensation claims are compensable only if the injury/condition primarily arises out of and in the scope of employment.

Occupational hearing loss? Yes, workers compensation claims are compensable only if the injury/condition primarily arises out of and in the scope of employment.

Disfigurement? Not for injuries on or after July 1, 2014.

Source: Workers Compensation Research Institute, May 2016 report