Eight Do’s and Don’ts in the Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims

Below, in no particular order, are a few key pointers for counsel and self-represented parties, after approximately eighteen months’ experience in the new Tennessee Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims.

  1. DO be selective with your arguments. You are not zealously representing your client when you make an argument that is contrary to established law or is not supported by the facts.
  2. DO submit position statements, with facts and law, in the form of a pleading rather than an email or letter — but DON’T file unnecessary or repetitive pleadings, especially if you’re an attorney up against a self-represented litigant.
  3. DO dress appropriately, for both evidentiary hearings and settlement approvals alike. Defense counsel, while you don’t represent the self-represented employee, it’s a considerate gesture to suggest he or she dress appropriately as well.
  4. DO marshal your proof for an evidentiary hearing. For example, the court cannot order temporary disability benefits if a physician hasn’t assigned restrictions, nor can the court order reimbursement for medical benefits if the employee fails to submit bills or receipts.
  5. DO call the court clerk, judge’s assistant, or the judge’s staff attorney with procedural questions. DON’T email or call the judge, even if you’ve cc’d your opponent.
  6. DO observe traditional courtroom formalities: Stand before the podium when making arguments to the court; ask to approach the witness; and DON’T use first names.
  7. DO be timely. This includes participation in teleconference hearings. If you call in first, the line will ring continuously until another participant calls in. If you’re unavoidably running late, contact the court clerk or other court staff.
  8. DO give the court constructive feedback on how to improve processes and procedures. DON’T proceed as if the Request for Assistance (RFA) processes are still in effect.

Judge Pamela Johnson PAMELA B. JOHNSON is a judge of the Tennessee Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims in Knoxville. This list was compiled after consultation with the 11 other workers’ compensation judges.

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