4 Items Claims Handlers Want From Their Defense Attorney

Workers’ compensation defense attorneys may lay awake at night wondering what their claims handler really wants.  Besides getting their files closed in a timely manner, they want to work with defense attorneys committed to a zealous defense of the file in an ethical and cost-effective manner.  Here are some tips that can help defense attorneys sleep better at night knowing they are giving their claims handler what they want.

 

 

Calculate the Average Weekly Wage (AWW)

 

The AWW is the basis for most indemnity benefits in a workers’ compensation claim.  Failing to calculate it correctly can increase the cost and exposure of the claim.  A seasoned defense attorney needs to communicate with the employer and receive additional explanation from the employee on a number of issues.  The list can be endless, but some special considerations include:

 

  • Whether the employee was a full or part-time worker;

 

  • Whether the employee was working any additional jobs outside the employer involved in the claim;

 

  • Investigation into the nature of any fringe benefits the employee was receiving. This includes tips, bonuses, insurance benefits and other forms on potential income; and

 

  • Special circumstances concerning the employee’s employment. This is especially the case when the injured worker in a seasonal employee, construction worker or part of a union collective bargaining agreement.

 

 

Calculate and Evaluate the Indemnity Exposure

 

Once the AWW is correctly calculated, the defense attorney can provide an accurate analysis to the claims management team about wage loss exposure.  This includes information on the following benefits:

 

  • Temporary Total Disability (TTD)—Benefits paid when the employee is temporarily off work due to injury or disability;

 

  • Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)—Benefits paid when the employee returns to work, but at reduced hours or rate of pay;

 

  • Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)—Typically a hybrid benefit based on the AWW and the number of weeks disability assigned by statute or rule to an injury; and

 

  • Permanent Total Disability (PTD)—Benefits paid when the employee is permanently precluded from returning to gainful employment based on their age, training and experience, and the type of work available in the geographical area. Various presumptions may apply concerning an employee’s receipt of Social Security Disability benefits.

 

 

Aggressive Defense Strategy That is Cost-Effective

 

Members of the claims management team also appreciate an aggressive defense strategy that moves a case toward settlement in an efficient and cost-effective manner.  Considerations for such planning include:

 

  • An immediate status report upon receiving the claims file, with periodic reports that are robust and evaluate the strengths and weakness of various defenses, a reasonable strategy and probable outcome;

 

  • Identification of missing information that needs to be discovered in order to provide an accurate analysis and defense. This includes a plan on how to uncover this information and whom might be a witness at hearing; and

 

  • Recommendations on how to move a case toward settlement. This includes information concerning the timing of an independent medical examination or independent vocational evaluation.

 

 

Medicare Secondary Payer Compliance

 

Medicare Secondary Payer compliance is an important part of any workers’ compensation claim analysis.  This includes recommendations on the following topics:

 

  • Whether a service provider should be utilized to prepare a Medicare Set-aside allocation;

 

  • If the Medicare Set-aside should be included for review and approval under the voluntary CMS process; and

 

  • Matters concerning conditional payment identification and repayment.

 

 

Conclusions

 

The wants of a workers’ compensation claims handler are quite simple.  They expect professionalism and responsive defense counsel to assist them on all claims.  While the defense attorney might not have all the answers, they need to assist the claims handler in discovering the information and reporting on it timely.  This also includes a reasonable analysis, while being a zealous advocate.

 

 

 

Michael Stack - AmaxxAuthor Michael Stack, Principal, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

 

©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

8 Categories To Define Winning Workers’ Comp Litigation Strategy

Legal fees in litigated workers compensation claims can quickly become a significant part of the overall claim cost.  Fortunately, there are some very good ways to control legal cost without having a negative impact on the overall claim settlement.  The best time to establish control over legal fees is when the defense attorney is first employed; however, the best time to control the overall strategy of the litigation is before counsel is even hired.

 

Prior to hiring counsel, a fast track defense strategy should be established to ensure that appropriate actions are taken immediately upon notification of a claim. [The individual components of a fast track strategy are beyond the scope of this article.] The establishment of some basic ground rules for the legal fee billing before the attorney goes to work on the workers compensation claim will result in a measure of cost control without sacrificing the best possible settlement of the claim.

 

Litigation cost control is much more than negotiating the hourly rate and whether or not you will be charged for postage.  There are Best Practices for Litigation Management that should be utilized as a major part of your legal cost control.  The Litigation Management Best Practices can be broken down into easy to measure performance goals.  The following questions will assist you in determining if your current litigation program is controlling cost fully.

 

 

Defense Counsel Selection:

  • Is the defense counsel on your company’s list of approved counsel?
  • Is the defense counsel selected a law firm, or a specific attorney (preferably), within the law firm? Many carriers have an “approved list” of attorneys they use; this doesn’t necessarily mean those are the best attorneys or the most knowledgeable for your purposes, so consider their qualifications carefully and if you have another attorney you wish to use, discuss adding him/her to the list of approved counsel.
  • If the defense attorney is new to representing your company, has the attorney been provided the terms and conditions of the assignment?
  • Have they visited your operations, seen your products and know the basic requirements of the jobs within your workplace?
  • Have the reporting requirements been clearly stated?
  • Was a litigation budget request incorporated into, or attached to, the assignment letter?

 

The Answer:

  • Did the workers compensation adjuster refer the matter to defense counsel timely when an answer must be filed?
  • Does the employer provide the complete facts of the injury immediately such as how the injury occurred, photographs of the accident, information about weight of objects lifted, the employee’s application for employment, information about any prior injuries, prior claims, or prior medical absences. Having the employment file is very helpful.
  • Does the defense attorney have everything needed to complete ALL blanks on the First Report of Injury. Does he have the OSHA Report?
  • Does the defense attorney offer arbitration or mediation as an alternative to protracted litigation?

 

Initial Legal File Handling:

  • Are all medical and/or indemnity issues covered by the workers compensation policy?
  • Is the potential exposure on the claim evaluated correctly?
  • Is there an economic justification for a quick disposition of the claim?
  • Are there any statute defenses that need to be addressed?
  • Are there any unique aspects of the claim that could alter the outcome favorably or unfavorably?
  • Are all potential third parties noted?

 

Defense Counsel Acceptance:

  • Does the defense counsel send an acknowledgment of the assignment to both the workers compensation adjuster and to your workers compensation coordinator?
  • Does the defense counsel provide an initial review and evaluation report within the first 30 day?
  • Does the initial review offer alternative courses of action and the probable outcomes?
  • Does the defense counsel provide a detailed budget plan within the first 30 days?

 

Defense Counsel Staffing:

  • With the acceptance of the assignment, did the defense counsel specify who will be working on the claim?  (Unless the claim is extremely complex, the defense attorney, possibly one junior associate and one paralegal are all of the law firm that should be involved.  Multiple associate attorneys and multiple paralegals will add time [cost] learning the claim before being able to proceed with an activity).
  • Is the hourly rate for each of the law firm members clearly stated?
  • Does the attorney do work that should be done by the paralegal?

 

Budget:

  • Is the budget completely itemized?
  • Is research time included only for extraordinary issues?
  • Does the budget include the cost of any experts that will be retained?

 

Claim Handling:

  • Does the defense counsel make recommendations for any additional adjuster work that should be done?  (Defense attorneys are notorious about having the paralegals do the adjuster’s job of obtaining medical records and other documentation).
  • Does the defense attorney have the adjuster hire other vendors (surveillance, nurse case managers, vocational rehabilitation, etc.) or does the defense attorney complete the adjuster’s work?

 

Actions of Defense Counsel:

  • Is defense counsel avoiding the expenses of depositions and other discovery if it is the intent to settle the claim? Often, some discovery prior to settlement can reduce the amount of the ultimate settlement.
  • Is the defense counsel requesting only necessary depositions?
  • Is the defense counsel reporting significant developments timely?
  • Is the defense counsel reporting the progress of the claim at least every 90 days if the case is moving slowly?
  • Do the reports from defense counsel cover all pertinent information without repeating prior reports?
  • Does each report include an action plan to move the claim forward?

 

Hearings / Trials:

  • Is the hearing / trial date reported as soon as it is known?
  • Does the defense attorney provide a pre-hearing / pre-trial report at least 30 days ahead of hearing / trial?
  • Does the defense attorney provide a strategy for the hearing / trial?
  • Does the defense attorney timely request additional settlement authority when needed?
  • Does the defense attorney provide a timely update or report on the hearing / trial?

 

Legal Bills:

  • Is the amount billed for each activity appropriate?
  • Are the bills properly itemized with each activity being billed separately?  (As opposed to block billing where several activities are lumped together and one charge is given for all work done).
  • Do the legal bills follow the defense attorney stated course of action?
  • Are the legal bills in compliance with the litigation budget?

 

If you are uncomfortable trying to control the litigation cost or feel you need an expert to review the litigated workers compensation claims, please contact us for assistance.

 

 

Author Michael Stack, Principal, Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their work comp costs by 20% to 50%.  He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center. .

 

Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Workers’ Comp Roundup Blog: http://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com/

Live Stream WC Training: http://workerscompclub.com/livestreamtraining

 

©2017 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker, attorney, or qualified professional.

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