To clarify, I am talking about workers over age 60. I do not mean anything more or anything less. These are the “seasoned” workers of today. The workers who lost tons in their 401k, lost real estate value, and had a few other kicks in the shin along life’s journey.
These are the workers that also had grand dreams. Dreams of retiring in their early 60s, if not sooner. Dreams of a daily tee time, a warm climate, and comfortable living. But alas, for some the dream did not work out. For whatever the reason, the bills remain. The 401k and pension portfolio was disappointing. The 2nd youngest moved in to with their 2 kids. So on and so on.
It Is Only One Facet To Study An Injury On Merits Alone
From a work comp standpoint, it is only one facet to study an injury on its’ merits alone. Good claims professionals also study the socioeconomic and cultural factors driving the older worker to remain in the workforce. These are not white-collar type soft jobs. I am talking about the 62 year old welders, the 64 year old truck driver, and the 60 year old warehouse supervisor that still spends most of their day driving a forklift and yelling at people.
Those are the workers I love. I would love a whole payroll of these workers. They earned everything they have ever spent $1 on. Earned through hard work, overtime, and long summer days working until dark. Missing BBQs, tee times, and TV sitcoms.
So what happens when they finally get injured? When that shoulder or back finally gives out after years of abuse? Plenty of studies have been completed; you can google hundreds of these articles. However, below is what I have seen and reviewed over the years. Some of it coincides with the many reports and some aspects do not. Let’s face it—as we know every file is different, and every person is different. To make a macro opinion is fantastic, but you cannot settle files based on macro-based broad-spectrum views. To settle that one bad file, you have to break it down to the simple core of whatever is driving the claimant to continue to fight.
- These workers can efficiently get the job done. In a warehouse or manufacturing facility, these are the workers that you count on. The workers that show up every day rain or shine. These people put in the overtime that makes your business successful. As seasoned veterans, they know the job inside and out. They have seen it all, made it all, manufactured it all, and know their job inside and out.
- These workers are training your floor leaders of tomorrow. When a new hire comes on board, you want these workers training your new staff. They know how to get the job done, and do it the right way. Every now and then there are some that cut safety corners and teach some bad habits, and that is not OK. However, they know how to get the job done. As long as it is not something blatantly dangerous, let them teach. It takes years to learn the real tricks of the trade. To have a long term employee in your ranks that can mold the new generation is a genuine asset.
- When your veteran worker gets injured, it is going to be a bad one. This goes back to the point that these workers fight for every dollar and every benefit then get. The majority of that generation is not going to file a claim over a minor strain, unless they have a history of this behavior. If they do have this history, when you run an ISO see this evidence and you’ll know the type of person you have on your hands. Most of these workers are going full speed until their back or shoulder finally succumbs to the years of blue collar labor. So the injuries typically are bad, and so bad that it may have limited surgical success. In fact, this injury may be what finally takes them out of the workplace for good due to permanent restrictions or a marginal prognosis.
- They accept honestly and reality. To the point above, as claims professionals we need to be honest with them. The more the claims person plays games, the quicker they will run to obtain Counsel. They also may not run to Counsel and may just mediate representing themselves. Those are the wild card cases, and in front of a Magistrate of Judge this seasoned worker may come off as the perfect witness. The last thing the carrier wants is to be backed in to a corner by playing the big business insurance company card. Be honest with them, present them with their options, and handle the case fairly.
- The best result will be to settle and move on. Chances are it will be difficult to vocationally rehab a worker in their 60s. They carry a high wage, they have a specific set of skills, and some just flat out do not want to work at the local hardware store as a greeter. So don’t waste your time–just cut to the chase. If the injury is bad enough to remove them from their workplace home, if you can settle a case on a full/final basis just plan on it and move it to that point as quickly as you can. You will save time, legal cost, vocational costs, and costs on everything else.
At the end of the day, this worker gave the majority of their lives to said employer. Thousands of hours of manual labor, through thick and thin. So take this long term worker, and help them learn and accept the fact that this is the proverbial end of the road.