Why Caring For Your Injured Workers Is Just Like Car Tires

Catching an injury when it first happens is like catching some worn tires on your vehicle—it can save you a lot in collateral damage.  It is the best analogy I have heard of the years.  Similar to tires, your workers are the ones doing the heavy lifting.  Disregard your tires, and if one blows out on the highway at 80mph you are going to incur a lot of other damage.

 

The importance of early reporting has to be driven home to the floor level employee.  Reporting an injury is not going to lead to punishment, termination, or loss of current title.  If this worker is in the course and scope of employment and something happens or doesn’t feel right, they have to feel that it is OK to report it to their manager.  Dire consequences can occur should they continue working injured, until their back or shoulder finally fully gives out.

 

So what are some tips to help you to accomplish this goal?

 

  • Empower the employee to feel comfortable reporting any problems.

 

The main culprit that stops workers from early reporting is a negative consequence.  Whether it is real or just shop floor gossip, workers need to be told that it is OK to report an injury or incident.  Not only does this help you pilot a better ship on the work comp risk front, but it also will empower your employees.  The worker is the only one that knows if something does not feel right.  This doesn’t mean they have to go to the clinic, but it is better to be safe than sorry.  I would rather have a worker go and get checked out and come back with a clean bill of health versus not tell anyone and further compromise themselves.

 

 

  • Make sure the workers know that you care about their health and well-being.

 

This seems so simple, but goes a long way.  The common stance that production needs must be met and must be put above worker health is a mistruth.  If you show workers that you care about their well-being, they will feel like a well-needed piece of the puzzle that gets the job done.  Injuries are going to happen, and you want to have an action plan in place that will deal with injuries once they occur.  This should not mean if someone comes to you and says that they are hurt that you tell them to get back to work because they do not look hurt.

 

 

  • Early treatment costs less and yields a better result. 

 

If you catch an injury when it first happens, especially a sprain/strain, stats show that the worker will respond better to conservative treatment.  Plus not only will they heal better but they will also miss less time from work, if any time at all.  However, if the worker ignores the warning signs from their body and continue to soldier on, that is what will cost you much more down the road.

 


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  • Early injury intervention means reduced lost production time. 

 

Similar to the medical costs, if a worker gets the care they need early on chances are they will not miss much time from work, if any.  They can still come to work in a reduced capacity in your light duty work program.  I would rather have my injured worker on light duty for a period of 2-3 weeks versus 2-3 months, or worse result of them never returning to work for you at all.

 

 

  • At the end of the day, if the worker declines medical treatment have them sign off on it.

 

It is not essential that every person with a strain must go and get medical treatment.  This is a judgement call that the employer and the carrier have to make.  However should they decline medical treatment that you offer, you should have them sign something verifying that treatment was offered and declined.  I have reviewed countless files where the employer states that treatment was offered and declined, later to have the employee state that they were never offered medical care and forced to return back to work.  This creates the “he said-she said” scenario which nobody wins.  But if you have a paper trail that the worker signed off on, now you have some evidence that can come in handy later down the road.

 

 

Statistics show that early intervention is very important when stacked up against lost work days and severity of injury.  Do not disregard the injuries your workers present you.  Take them all seriously, and create that paper trail.  You never know when you are going to need it later on.

 

 

 

Author Michael Stack, Principal, COMPClub, 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 founder of COMPClub, an exclusive member training program on workers compensation cost containment best practices. Through these platforms he is in the trenches on a monthly basis working together with clients to implement and define best practices, which allows him to continuously be at the forefront of innovation and thought leadership in workers’ compensation cost containment. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

 

©2015 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.

Making Use of Your Recorded Statement

Use of recorded statements is an effective and cost-efficient tool of discovery for members of the claim management team.  Before you take a recorded statement of an injured worker, a member of the claim management team needs to understand the legal implications.  As with most things in workers’ compensation cases, it is important to understand how the law in one jurisdiction varies from another.  Failing to understand this issue can impact the admissibility of the recorded statement later on in the case.

 

 

Important Questions to Ask

 

A recoded statement can serve as the basis for ongoing discovery and witness identification efforts.

 

  • Claimant Background Information
    • General background information (DOB, height/weight, etc.)
    • Education history
    • Work and vocational history (including wages, job duties, work-related injuries, and reasons for departure)
    • Military service
    • Smoking history
    • Prior litigation experience
    • Criminal convictions
    • Driver’s license status
    • Medicare and Social Security status/applications

 

  • Prior Medical History
    • Locations of regular medical treatment, including care in the past
    • Surgical history
    • Diagnosis and treatment of chronic or ongoing conditions
    • Physical therapy and chiropractic care
    • Emergency room visits
    • Motor vehicle accidents and other personal injuries
    • Chemical/substance abuse treatment
    • Mental health
    • Marital status and children, including information on children/dependents with special needs

 

  • Potential Interveners
    • SSDI, SSI benefits and Medicare/Medicaid
    • Pensions and 401K
    • Public assistance
    • Veterans benefits
    • Unemployment compensation and history
    • Out-of-pocket medical expenses
    • Medical mileage
    • Child Support obligations

 

  • Work with the employer on the Date of Injury
    • Supervisor/manager
    • Co-workers and worksite personnel
    • Description of work duties (physical aspects; required lifting; motions and movements required with employment)
    • Hours worked, including overtime
    • Wage history
    • Absences from work/disability
    • Previous workers’ compensation injuries
    • Verbal or written reprimands

 

  • Injury related information
    • Description of injury
    • Emergency personnel and first-responders
    • Immediate injury symptomology
    • Post injury symptoms
    • Aggravations with various activities: Sitting – how long; Standing – how long; Walking – how long; Lifting – how much; Twisting; Bending; Driving – how long
    • Present medical care and treatment along with understanding of future care

 

  • Miscellaneous information
    • Hobbies and recreational activities
    • Musical instruments
    • Leisure activities such as reading
    • Activities of daily living and around the house

 

Other Considerations

 

It is important to know and understand all applicable rules and statutes related to recorded statements.  In most instances, the statements must be accurately transcribed and sent to the claimant for their review and signature within a specified timeframe.  Failure to do so may impact the ability of counsel to use that recorded statement as evidence or impeach the testimony of the person giving the statement.

 

 

Author Michael Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx LLC. He is co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, and founder of COMPClub an interactive training program teaching workers’ comp cost containment best practices.  Through this platform he is in the trenches on a monthly basis with risk managers, brokers, consultants, attorney’s, and adjusters teaching timeless workers’ comp cost containment strategies, as well as working with members to develop new tactics and systems to address the issues facing organizations today. This unique position allows him to continuously be at the forefront of innovation and thought leadership in workers’ compensation cost containment. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

Investigating and Handling Repetitive Use Injuries

Repetitive use injuries account for a significant portion of claims in many workers’ compensation programs.  While these injuries can occur in any employee, they are becoming more prevalent in the aging American worker force.  It is important for claim management teams to investigate properly these claims to reduce the costs of claims.

 

 

A Case Study: The Anatomy of Repetitive Use Injuries

 

Frank Smith is a dedicated employee and has been working at the Acme Widget Company for over 20 years.  He has never missed a day of work since starting.  During a typical 8-hour shift, he will twist some knobs, pull some levers and walks back and forth along the widget-making machine.  The day after working a longer than normal shift due to high demand for widgets, Frank wakes up and is experiencing numbness and tingling in his arms.  He is later diagnosed with bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome with rotator cuff impingement in his shoulders.  Are these conditions work-related?

 

 

Common Features of Repetitive Use Injuries

 

The legal definition in every jurisdiction varies on compensability for these injuries.  Courts will look at a variety of factors when determining if such conditions are compensable.  There are some common aspects across all states workers’ compensation laws:

 

  • Whether the employee is performing “repetitive activity;”
  • Whether the repetitive motions or activities place stress on certain joints or body parts; and
  • The employee’s work activity must be unusual, in that it brings about a disability that would not occur in normal activities or in another employment.

 

 

Best Practices for Claims Investigation

 

Investigating claims of this nature are difficult given the tricky questions of causation medical experts must answer.  This is especially difficult when a workers’ compensation claimant leads an active lifestyle outside of their work environment.  Such activities as playing musical instruments, gardening, work with tools, equipment, and other activities of daily living place stress on one’s joints and body.

 

  • Define the specific nature of the employee’s work duties and activities. The use of video demonstrations of work activities and workstations can assist medical and vocation experts render credible opinions regarding causation.

 

  • Investigation into the employee’s prior medical, vocational and work history history. This would include obtain a complete history as to bodily movements they performed in the past and associated medical care for any injuries/conditions.  It is also important to find out why people left past positions, and obtain employment records to verify their recollection.

 

  • Determine all the facts surrounding the alleged work condition(s). This should include:
  • The development of symptomology and what work activities gave rise to the alleged symptoms;
  • The employee’s awareness of their condition(s) and at what points they thought they might have a work-related condition;
  • Dates or time periods the employee took time off from work due to their condition(s) and their rationale for taking the time off; and
  • The circumstances surrounding and reports of injury the employee made, why they reported the injury and to whom it was reported.

 

The concept of legal “notice” often comes into play regarding these claimed injuries.  It is important to under the case law and relevant legal definitions when defending a repetitive use injury claim.

 

 

Other Important Considerations

 

Properly defending repetitive use injuries will also include an independent medical examination.  Prior to having the employee seen by a medical expert, it is paramount that as much relevant information is collected beforehand.  It is also important to have an expert who has treated the conditions being alleged in the past.  If the employee is contemplating surgery, it will also be important to determine your doctor’s surgical experience and expertise.

 

The question of workplace ergonomics can also come into play.  It is important to have this angle of the claim examined, as sometimes a condition cannot occur from a physiological standpoint.  Specialists and vocational experts can examine and comment on these issues.

 

 

 

Author Michael B. Stack, Principal, COMPClub, Amaxx Work Comp Solutions. He is an expert in employer communication systems and helps employers reduce their workers comp costs by 20% to 50%. He resides in the Boston area and works as a Qualified Loss Management Program provider working with high experience modification factor companies in the Massachusetts State Risk Pool.  He is co-author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com, and Founder of the interactive Workers’ Comp Training platform COMPClub. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

©2015 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

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

 

Effective Use of Employee Recorded Statements

The use of recoded statements is one tool claim management teams have to assist in the discovery process.  Before taking a recorded statement, it important to understand the legal and practical implications of this process.

 

 

Understand the “Rules of the Road”

 

Before you take a recorded statement of an injured worker, a member of the claim management team needs to understand the legal implications.  As with most things in workers’ compensation cases, it is important to understand how the law in one jurisdiction varies from another.  Failing to understand this issue can impact the admissibility of the recorded statement later on in the case.

 

 

Develop a Strategy First

 

Once a claim comes into your office, you will have an opportunity to review various documents.  These documents include a First Report of Injury, medical records and other reports.  Before taking a recorded statement, it is important to “size up” the parties involved in the claim.  This can include speaking to the claimant informally as you gather information.

 

During this phase of a claim investigation, it may also be important to talk with an attorney if you feel the claim will result in litigation.  Part of this discussion can also include the development of defenses and subrogation matters.  Following your internal policies and procedures is also important.

 

 

Issues of Admissibility

 

It is important that the recoded statement is admissible later on in the life of a workers’ compensation claim.  This results in many considerations when you anticipate the need for taking this statement:

 

  • Timelines required for when the statement needs to be taken, if any;

 

  • The method in which the statement should be taken. This is an important consideration if the employee has retained an attorney; and

 

  • In most jurisdictions, the recorded statement needs to be signed by the claimant. If this is the case, be aware of any barriers you might have in getting the recoded statement transcribed and sent to the employee.

 

 

Recorded Statement Best Practices

 

Taking a recorded statement costs money and time.  It is important to plan wisely.

 

  • Some attorneys recommend that you wait at least 30 days to take a recorded statement. This allows you to develop defenses and obtain important information.  It is likely that by waiting a short period of time, you will develop key facts it is important to understand later on in the case.

 

  • Receive necessary internal approvals for using a recorded statement. In jurisdictions that require the statement to be signed by the injured worker, it is important to have procedures in place where the timelines can be met.

 

  • Develop effective questions for the recorded statement. Make sure that you obtain the necessary background information about the claimant.  This will include information about their vocational, educational and medical background.  It is also important to have the claimant describe work injury in detail.  This will come in useful when working with a medical expert or at a deposition.

 

  • Listen and be flexible. Remember that everything the claimant is saying is being recorded.  Take some notes as you go, but remember that if you are not listening to what is being said, you could be missing important information.  Use a written outline, but also be prepared to change gears so the statement has a natural flow.

 

Recorded statements can also be taken of lay witnesses.  Be sure to know the procedures and protocols if you plan on taking the statement of a person who is not a party to the workers’ compensation claim.

 

 

Conclusions

 

Recoded statements are an effective tool in workers’ compensation claim discovery.  While this is a rather inexpensive tool, it is important that you understand the law and what it requires when using this method.  Failing to develop a strategy can be costly.

 

 

 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. He is an expert in employer communication systems and helps employers reduce their workers comp costs by 20% to 50%. He resides in the Boston area and works as a Qualified Loss Management Program provider working with high experience modification factor companies in the Massachusetts State Risk Pool.  He is co-author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

©2015 Amaxx LLC. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

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

 

Facts Are Most Important Contribution From Employer In Work Comp

Your correspondent has decades of experience with comp claims and, therefore, decades of contact with angry dissatisfied people – mostly employers and employees. Complaining seems to be their first choice, but this is not effective. Participation, even when uninvited, is a far better alternative.

 

 

Facts Are The Most Valuable Contribution An Employer Can Make

 

What is the most valuable contribution an employer can make to a claim? Facts. All claims are supposed to be based on a collection of facts, starting with descriptions by the parties – employer and employee. But the initial set of facts comes from the first report forms and, in most claims, ends there. But complicated, serious or contested claims will need a lot more than the initial report.

 

Employers usually feel that if more than an initial report is required someone will call and ask. That, however, is an act of faith, not participation. Getting a late start on information is a leading cause of lost opportunity – especially for employers. It is far better for the employer to contribute more information to the carrier in addition to the first report of injury.

 

 

See Attached Is Most Important Thing You Will Write On First Report

 

A first report calls for one sentence descriptions of the accident – hardly enough for the important claims. Therefore, a one page narrative is to be preferred. “See attached” is the most important thing you will ever write on a first report.

 

Another attachment should be a list of all other claims made by the worker. In addition to claiming an accident, did the worker apply for unemployment? Disability insurance? Retirement? Discrimination? These can be very important, even when they preceded the accident report by weeks or months. Unreported claims for unemployment which precede the accident report are especially critical, and often unknown to the carrier, TPA and Board.

 

 

Has The Worker Had A History of Poor Attendance?

 

Has the worker had a history of poor attendance prior to the claim? That is very important to know, especially on contested claims. If attendance problems exist – document them. And send to the carrier with the first report.

 

Did the worker have more than one job? You may have an apportionment opportunity. But only if you document and attach. Name address and phone number of employer, please. Also wages and hours, if known.

 

Medical and disability problems? These are always relevant but you are better off first calling for a private off-the-record talk with the carrier about these. The same goes for marital, financial and legal difficulties – which are often the motivations for an exaggerated claim.

 

Do you have documents? Especially prior decisions by government agencies. Unemployment claims which have been decided in the employer’s favor often precede dubious comp clams but are unknown to the carrier and the Board in the majority of cases. Your defense will be far more effective if a copy of that unemployment decision reaches the carrier as soon as possible, preferable with the first report.

 

 

Any Lawyer Can Make Controversy Out of Silence

 

Any lawyer can make a controversy out of silence. Useful communication now will eliminate the need for complaints later.

 

 

 

Author: Attorney Theodore Ronca is a practicing lawyer from Aquebogue, NY. He is a frequent writer and speaker, and has represented employers in the areas of workers’ compensation, Social Security disability, employee disability plans and subrogation for over 30 years. Attorney Ronca can be reached at 631-722-2100. medsearch7@optonline.net

 

©2015 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

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

 

 

Consistently Obtain Positive Outcomes From Work Comp Claims

No matter the type of claim, adjusters will get a feeling right away if a claim is going to be trouble or not. The first indication is from the first phone call to the employer. If the employer has a negative feeling about the injury and details surrounding the injury, it means that this claim could potentially be trouble.

 

 

Injury Response & Return To Work Program Need to Be Consistently Applied

 

Let’s face it–every employee is not a big fan of working their job day after day. Employers are not required to be huge fans of all of their employees as well. This is not a marriage, this is business. With injury claims, two negatives are not going to equal a positive.

 
In this scenario, the adjuster has to mitigate between the two parties. The adjuster has the control to make this claim a positive one by getting the disgruntled worker prompt medical treatment and back to light duty work as fast as possible so little is disrupted in the world of said employee.

 
A potential issue arises where an employer may be selective in who works in the light duty program. Not only is this a bad idea, but it is really not fair to those employees not selected to work. It is not productive, not beneficial, and it will not “punish” the employee by keeping them at home.

 
What it will do is create an even worse relationship between the worker and the employer. This is when the claimant will start to push the issue of the injury, by making it seem like it is worse than it is. Their efforts are to show the employer how injured they really could be if they wanted to be.

 

 
Negative Relationships Between Employer & Employee Lead to Negative Claim Outcomes

 
Adjusters know this type of issue is going to happen before it even starts. It is ultimately about control. The employee is trying to control the employer by malingering around and extending their claim for as long as they claim. The employer is trying to control the employee by saying they cannot come back to work until they are on full duty.

 
The adjuster should have the most control, and this is where they have to step in to stop all of this from even starting. The best thing an employer can do is work employees while they are recovering. The best thing an injured worker can do while recovering is to be up and around and productive, not sitting around the house irritated and becoming financially strapped as the days go by.

 
Positive outcomes can arise if everyone does what they are supposed to do. Someone gets hurt, reports it, treats for it, and then is placed in the light duty program. Any failure of that flow will result in a hurdle, derailing the claim off of its tracks. The adjuster has to pilot the ship, and they have to be in a situation where both sides will do what the adjuster says.

 
Pushback from the employer on resisting light duty work solely because they do not like the employee is bad business. It will create a bad air in the plant, and it will make future claim relations a lot more difficult because a “pick-and-choose” situation arises.

 

 

 

Communication Is Key

 
We say time and time again that communication is key. The adjuster has to clearly communicate to both parties what their options are, and the negative results that could happen from not doing what they are supposed to do. This goes for employers as well. Workers want to know that should an injury occur they are taken care of. The last thing any employer needs is an “us-versus-them” environment. Nobody wins in that situation.

 
You have a light duty work program for a reason. It is there to provide productive work for injured workers that are in recovery from an injury that occurred in the course and scope of their employment. Light duty jobs must be reasonable, productive, and of benefit to the employer. We have all heard stories of the employer who has a light duty program of making an injured worker sit in a room and stare at a clock. Or a light duty job where they remove screws from a box, count them, and put back in a box. These days those jobs will never hold up in litigation, and you are only wasting your own resources by creating these negative situations.

 
The bottom line is to have positive injury claim outcomes, no matter who is hurt and no matter what other negative factors apply. Treat everyone the same, let your adjuster steer the ship, and do what you are supposed to do.

 

 

 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com.  Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

©2014 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

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

 

Magic Potion To Fix Work Comp Supervisor Problems

One of the most important parts of the claims process is getting the supervisor to report the claim. Once reported, the claim can take the next step to getting to the carrier and the adjuster.

 

This is a process and breakdown in the links of communication lead to failure. Trust me—failure happens all of the time in business and insurance. This is one item that puts employers and carriers behind the proverbial 8-ball because a delay in reporting is almost guaranteed to drive up the cost of the claim. It can also severely limit your options for claim defense and leads to penalties, leakage, and errors.

 

 

 

Links of Communication Fail With The Supervisor

 

The links of communication fail, and from my experience they fail at that very first level—the supervisor on the floor. This supervisor is the one that gets the ball rolling. They are the ones readily available to look at failed machines, leaking oil that caused injury, or perhaps some other malfunction.

 

However, the supervisor often doesn’t take their position in dealing with injury claims seriously. He fails to talk to the injured worker for more than 2 minutes to make sure he/she is Ok and then moves on to the next task. All of that opportunity for immediate claims investigation is now lost. Those initial moments are crucial to the claim investigation. What did the employee say that injured him? Did they see something wrong before they were hurt? What caused the injury? Were there any witnesses? Who helped you up? Who were you working with before you got hurt? The list of questions goes on forever.

 

 

It is important to make this process as simple as possible for the supervisor to execute. Delays in reporting, as well as proper injury investigation are so important; it is our recommendation that you give your supervisors support to complete these tasks. The simplest way to accomplish this is to work with qualified professionals on injury reporting and on-site investigation.

 

 

 

Immediately Report Claim and Get Employee Medical Attention With Injury Triage

 

 

If the injured employee’s injury does not create an emergency situation, the supervisor should direct the  injured employee to call a toll free,  24 hour/7 day nurse access number. The information about the injury obtained by the RN at the time of the initial report is more accurate and complete than when the medical information is obtained second-hand from the employee’s supervisor.   Plus, the triage nurse will evaluate the medical needs of the injured employee and recommend the appropriate level of care, whether it is a walk-in clinic, first aid on the job site, providing home-care instructions, or an emergency care facility. Costly emergency room visits and medical clinic visits are avoided when they are not needed.

 

 

On-Site Investigation From SIU Provider

 

The second area that is critically important to improve is the post injury investigation. Once notified of the injury, the supervisor will contact the SIU provider who will offer on-site investigation with little or no notice. Skilled investigators will be deployed to the scene to obtain photos, interview the injured worker and witnesses, diagram where and how the accident occurred, or create a video reenactment. This imperative information is captured to understand the incident and create a plan to properly manage the claim.

 

 

Lack of reporting, and lack of discipline, is where a lot of employers are failing their own safety programs. The task of being a supervisor and a “first-responder” is an important one. Help your best workers perform their best work by giving them the tools of skilled professionals to get the job done right. If you need a recommendation for qualified service providers, please contact us.

 

 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com.  Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

©2014 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

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

 

Can I Get A Witness?

Too often when adjusters are completing their investigations they overlook the witnesses.

 

This is mostly due to the fact that adjusters are just going through the motions and not paying proper attention to what the claimant is actually saying. It is a question on their sheet, and they ask it. If there are witnesses that the injured worker names, that is where it ends. They have a name for later on. Then months later when this case goes in to litigation, then they follow up with the witness who can’t remember what happened. This renders them useless to the defense of the file, when in retrospect they could hold the most important key to your defense.

 

I would bet even when there are witnesses, the claimant fails to name them in order to try and cement the validity of their claim. The want to ensure the only account of the injury is their account. The employer should also be asked if there were witnesses. If there were, then at the very least written statements need to be made and submitted to the adjuster.

 

 

Best Way to Investigate Witnessed Claims Is Immediately By Adjuster or Employer

 

The best way to investigate witnessed claims would be to go out and interview the witnesses themselves, and record it to be a part of the file. Due to geographical limitations, this may not be possible, but you can always record the conversation over the phone. However this is done, it needs to be done right away. The more time that goes by the less they will remember.

 

There is no doubt the employer would assist the adjuster in making this interview happen. If this is a proactive employer they complete their own internal investigation, and witness statements should be a key aspect of that investigation. If it is not, then the adjuster needs to point out to them time and time again that they need to comb the work floor to see if anyone saw what happened. It can’t be stressed enough how important this is to the overall investigation of the claim.

 

 

 

The Witness That Saved Huge Dollars

 

Case in point, I reviewed a claim where an employee fell in a parking lot on his way in to work. It was a snowy evening, and this claimant worked the night shift. He came in to work and said he fell in the parking lot, but declined medical treatment. The employer asked if anyone saw him fall and he said no.

 

A week later he came in the office of the employer and asked to go for medical treatment because his back was killing him. The adjuster found out that there were witnesses to the fall because the employer did a proper investigation right after the injury was mentioned. The injured employee did not know that someone saw him fall. He told the employer he fell on his low back/buttocks hard without putting his hands down to stop the fall. The witness however stated that the injured worker fell on his knee, not very hard, and did not fall all the way to the ground.

 

Later when he went for treatment, he was sent for an MRI due to radicular complaints. Turns out he had hardware in place from a prior back surgery that was not work related. He also had all kinds of new damage. The adjuster talked to the doctor about the fall, and the doctor agreed that had he sustained all of this damage due to this slip/fall he would have never been able to work a week without getting treatment. He actually would have had a hard time even getting up from the ground had all of this damage occurred from the alleged fall.

 

When getting the statement, the claimant stated he fell to the ground hard and limped in to work even though the employer said he worked a week walking fine, with no complaints. When confronted with the witness statement and the doctor comment about the validity of the injury happening from the fall, the employee became combative and went to obtain legal counsel. Later in mediation, after faced with the ammo of the witness and the doctor, the plaintiff attorney withdrew representation on the case. The claimant was caught in a lie, to both the adjuster and to the employer, and to the treating doctors on the case, and was deemed to be not credible.

 

Had this adjuster not received this statement from the witness, this entire case would have blown apart. We are talking another back surgery, potentially paid for by work comp, on a guy in his later 60’s. The outcome probably would have been terrible. But the power of this witness statement turned the case around.

 

Granted this may not happen on every case like this, but it goes to show you how powerful a witness statement can be. So be sure to do your homework, and give those witnesses as much attention as you would the claimant.

 

 

A Witness Can Hold The Key To Your Defense

 

In this case the witness was another line worker, with nothing to gain by fabricating up some story in malice, and the mediator agreed. The witness said coming forward was the right thing to do. At the end of the day, the carrier was able to dodge a claim that would have for sure ended up costing them significant dollars by the time it was all said and done.

You never know when your next case is your next nightmare so be thorough, and give witnesses the attention they deserve. They could hold the key to your defense later down the road.

 

 

 

 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Principal, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com.  Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

©2014 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law.

 

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

Workers Comp Cost Containment Starts With Post-Injury Investigation

Employers often think they have completed their investigation of the new workers’ compensation claim when they have finished filling out the state required Employers’ First Report of Injury (FROI).  The information on the FROI is a good start on investigating a new injury claim, but it is not, by far, the only information that needs to be developed when investigating an injury claim.

 

Much of the information on the FROI – employee name, address, date of birth, social security number, and home phone number – can be taken right off the employee’s personnel file.  Other information to complete the FROI – date and time of the accident, location of the accident, what happen, etc., can be obtained from the injured employee’s supervisor or department manager.  Often the FROI is completed without the workers’ compensation coordinator for the employer ever talking to the injured employee.   This is a major mistake.

 

 

Post-Injury Interview Should Be Thorough

 

The person responsible for overseeing the employer’s workers’ compensation claims should interview the injured employee, in person if possible or by phone if an in person interview is not possible, to discuss the accident.  The interview should include several important questions or topics:

 

  • Exactly where in the workplace did the accident occur?
  • Was the employee doing his/her regular job?
  • How did the accident occur?
  • Was a third party responsible for the injury?  (Think subrogation and cost recovery)
  • Repeat the details of the accident to the employee to verify your understanding of the accident is correct.
  • Confirm the accident occurred within the course and scope of employment.
  • Ask the employee what the employer can do to prevent the accident from happening again.
  • Obtain the names of all coworkers who witnessed the accident.
  • Ask the employee to provide a detailed description of all injuries, including symptoms and level of pain.
  • Ask the employee what is the medical provider’s diagnosis, prognosis, treatment plan and work restrictions.
  • Confirm the employee treated at the designated medical facility if your state allows the employer to select the medical provider.
  • If the employee has treated at an unauthorized medical provider, instruct the employee on the correct medical provider for any additional medical treatment.
  • If the employee has the right to select his/her own medical provider, obtain the name of the medical provider along with the address and phone number.
  • Ask the employee if they have ever had a prior injury.  (This includes both work-related injuries and non-work related injuries).  Later, after your discussion with the employee, compare their answers to their job application to see if their “new work injury” is a pre-existing medical problem.
  • If the employee does disclose a prior work-related injury(s), obtain the name of the employer(s) and the date(s) of the prior injury(s).
  • Discuss with the injured employee what work the employee is still capable of doing within the work restrictions set by the medical provider.
  • Review with the employee what the medical management program will do to assist in their recovery.
  • Reinforce the need for the employee to contact you following each doctor’s visit for the purpose of providing you with an update on the medical recovery and the work restrictions.

 

 

Good Information Creates Improved Work Comp Claim Outcomes

 

While this might seem like a lot of information to collect if the employee should be off work only for a few days or a few weeks, it is essential you do so.  When the employer does not have a complete investigation and complete understanding of the medical care and progress, there is a much higher probability the injured employee will exploit the injury and being off work a few months or years rather than days or weeks.

 

Also, your investigation into the claim can often be essential in the prevention, or at least limitation, of medical treatment and lost work days due to pre-existing medical conditions.  Plus, when employees know that the employer thoroughly investigates every injury claim, the incidents of fraudulent claims is greatly diminished.

 

 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com

 

Editor Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com

 

©2013 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. 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 about workers comp issues.

How You Respond To An Work Place Injury Can Determine Life of Claim

Work injuries happen with little warning.  It’s not like you come in to work and receive an email that one of your employees is going to saw his finger off around 9:32am.  Those employers that are unprepared are usually those that miss out on collecting certain details of the injury.  More common is the delay of treatment and/or reporting of the injury to their insurer/TPA since they are not ready or they are unsure what to do in general.

 

Proactive employers will sometimes perform a mock-injury, by pulling a certain employee aside and having them feign an injury.  This way you can spot your weaknesses in your safety program and correct them so all parties are ready when the real injury happens.  Below we discuss a few items a risk manager or safety person should keep well within their reach so they are ready when an injury happens.

 

 

  1. Make sure your internal injury reporting forms are ready to go

 

All employers need to have their own internal reporting forms (if you don’t have any, contact us for help), and they are not scribbling down injury details on a Post-It note.  The best internal reporting paperwork has 3 fields: One for the employee to complete, one for the supervisor to complete, and one for the risk manager or safety person or person in charge of the safety program to complete.  This way you are assembling the injury details together by having a statement written direct from the employee on what happened, one from the supervisor, and one statement from the person in charge of reporting injuries to the carrier/TPA.  Another great field has the employee list witnesses, and the person in charge needs to get with those witnesses right away to gather details so they are not forgotten.  All of these details are greatly helpful to the adjuster on the claim.  Remember it is hard to turn back the clock and talk with witnesses a week after an incident.

 

 

  1. Have your carrier/TPA contact info and know where to send the injury report

 

Adjusters hate it when an agent or broker is the one turning in a work comp claim.  This is because the Agent/Broker will sometime be missing information, or they will place the form on their desk and maybe forget to report the injury to the carrier until a few days or weeks later.  The first few days to a week after the injury are the most crucial to the adjuster for gathering information, and any delay in that can further delay their investigation.  Employers need to take charge on their injuries and be responsible for reporting directly to the carrier/TPA on the day the accident happened.  I cannot think of one carrier/TPA that does not have 24-hour reporting capability, even if you have to fax the injury form in, or email it to your contact if you cannot call the claim in over the phone.  Whatever method you prefer, you need to know who to contact and how to get a hold of them.  Do not delay; get it reported at a minimum by the end of the workday.

 

 

  1. Make sure everyone on the floor knows the next step

 

If the only people that know about your injury reporting program are the people on the safety committee, then you are missing a lot of crucial steps to having a smoothly operating system.  Even to go as far as the floor supervisors is not far enough.  Every employee needs to know what to do when an injury occurs.  Again one of the best ways to enforce this program is to have a few mock injury runs every now and then.  Practice makes perfect, even though these injuries are not real it is important for all people involved to know what to do, and to know what questions to ask, when to ask them, and how to record the information. 

 

For example, if a machine were to malfunction and injure an employee, what do you do with the machine?  Do you keep it running and carry on with your day?  Of course not.  A machine involved in an injury needs to be stopped right when the injury happens, and it needs to be tagged and removed from the work floor if possible.  Nothing should be touched by anyone.  Nobody should be able to touch the machine unless they are authorized by management to do so.  This is important in case there is subrogation against the maker of the machine, or subrogation against an outside vendor that maintains and maintenances the machine.  Once a person touches the machine and begins to operate it, you can lose out on the opportunity to pursue subrogation (depending on the machine, injury, and jurisdiction of course).

 

 

 

  1. Where do you send injured employees?

 

When an injury happens, where does the worker go for treatment?  Where is the closest hospital if this injury needs immediate care?  Is someone in charge of driving this worker to the clinic or hospital?  If so, do they know where the clinic is and what authorization forms to bring with them so the clinic will treat the patient?  

 

These are all important questions, and all questions that need answers.  If someone is to provide transport for the injured worker, obviously they need to know where to go.  Not every injury is an immediate emergency.  If you take someone to the ER for a back strain, they will probably be sitting there for hours before getting treatment.  In your jurisdiction, can workers be taken to their own doctors for care?  If not, you need to provide a few occupational clinics or Urgent care clinics.  If a worker can go to their own doctor, did you gather their doctor information and contact numbers?  Does the employee know that they are to get a copy of their work restriction forms and send them back to their employer right away?  It is these scenarios where employers miss out on providing light duty work opportunities, which can cost additional lost wages to be paid.  Everyone has to be on the same page, and it comes back to communication.  Each person needs to know their role, and what their responsibilities are.

 

 

Summary

 

These are only a few things for you have an effective work comp injury program.  As mentioned numerous times above, communication is key.  Everyone has to know what they are supposed to do.  Not just the members of the safety committee, not just the members of management, and not just the supervisors.  Everyone needs to know their role in a safety program, and that means every employee, every day.  You never know when an injury is going to happen.  It doesn’t matter if it is a minor injury or a major one.  An injury is an injury, and the minor ones are the ones that can come back to bite you.

 

 

Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com.  Contact: mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com.

 

 

 

©2013 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. 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 about workers comp issues.

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