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Industry Insights

Switzer: Smoothing Those Bumps in the Road

  • State: Tennessee

In March, I authored an article entitled “Important Change Coming Soon.” The gist of the article was to report that beginning on March 25, all mediations would end in the issuance of a dispute certification notice. The reason had to do with the TNComp computer system and making all files available to an assigned judge to monitor the progress of cases.

Judge Kenneth M. Switzer

Judge Kenneth M. Switzer

In the last paragraph, I mentioned that we would experience a few bumps in the road. We have. One has been smoothed and another awaits repaving.

The first bump concerned issuing a dispute certification notice in a fully settled case. As you quickly pointed out, not only did this make little sense, it also confused the parties. They would mediate a full settlement and then a week or so later would receive a dispute certification notice listing issues that were not disputed. After some discussion, we reacted and ended this process.

The next bump is issuing a dispute certification notice when a temporary issue is resolved at the first mediation. Let’s say that after the petition is filed, a mediator obtains an agreement for a panel. At this point, a dispute certification notice is issued with disputes checked so that TNComp can be unlocked to assign the file to a judge. But you still received a dispute certification notice although you worked out the temporary issue.

One attorney suggested that we add another check box to the dispute certification notice form that says something like: “TRANSFERRED TO COURT — NO PRESENT ISSUE IN DISPUTE.”

An excellent suggestion indeed. (Please don’t be shy to bring these things to our attention.) We are in the process of making this change.

Making changes to software programs takes time and money. We’ve submitted that proposal to the wizards who know how to make such a seemingly simple change. I don’t have a date for that change to take effect, but it will be soon. Maybe not how I define “soon,” but soon anyway.

And this all brings me to this week’s educational conference in Murfreesboro. We realize that those with boots on the ground see things from a whole different perspective. You may have questions and comments about processes.

I’ve held listening sessions around the state a couple of times in the past few years. This time, some of the other judges and I will be available during the Thursday morning (9-9:30 a.m.) and Thursday afternoon (2:30-3 p.m.) breaks to hear your comments and suggestions about how to improve our system and procedures. These sessions will be in the Cambridge room.

In my 10 years here, I’ve learned that it takes a year to change a rule and two years to make a statutory change. So come see us during those breaks and share your ideas. Together, we can start those time frames moving and smooth out a few more bumps in the road.

Kenneth M. Switzer is chief judge in the Tennessee Court of Workers' Compensation Claims, Nashville. This entry is republished with permission from the court's blog.

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