By Meaghan Tyndale-Williams, Vice President – Commercial Lines
Get Your Employees Back to Work & Avoid Litigation
Despite our best efforts workplace injuries happen. These accidents can be costly and leave you vulnerable to expensive litigation if not handled properly.
Being suspicious, indifferent, or callous can cost your company dearly. If your worker hires an attorney, expenses skyrocket to $62,652—nearly eight times the average for claims without attorneys—reports the California Workers’ Compensation Institute. That’s because lawyer-assisted paid-disability leaves last an average of 74.5 days—triple the length of days off for those who make claims without an attorney.
So show you care and avoid such crises with these eight steps:
Encourage safety awareness, including expectations for staff if they file for workers’ compensation.Forty-six percent of those who hire attorneys do so because of miscommunications about claims. They assume the claim has been denied when actually it has yet to be processed, reports a Workers’ Compensation Research Institute survey of 6,823 injured employees. So announce any action you’ve taken to help them, such as alerting insurers about the injuries. Give the address, phone number, claim number, and name of the claims representative, and let them know that if they don’t hear back within a certain time frame, they should phone you and you’ll look into the delay.
Comfort from the get-go
If the injury is serious, accompany your employee to the hospital.
Don’t let workers feel ignored, which makes them feel disconnected and more likely to linger at home, quit upon returning, or worse, file a lawsuit. Each day they fail to hear from you, the more likely they’ll turn to an attorney. So check in; be empathetic, not adversarial; caring, not intrusive. Ask how they’re feeling. Reassure them their job awaits and they’re missed.
Ask if they need financial assistance till their first workers’ comp check arrives. Get claims officers to launch pay “without prejudice” to cover prescriptions and physical therapy before final approval.
Don’t assume a claim has been processed just because you filed it or has been approved because it was merited.
If you suspect an employee will struggle with complex paperwork. You’d rather the employee relied on you than an attorney.
Once staffers return to work part-time, touch base with the employee. A resentful supervisor may have given the returning employee more arduous duties or worse hours. Step in and fix it.That’s how businesses breed loyalty. Fear, frustration, and unreasonable terms breed litigation. So don’t demand doctors’ notes weekly or threaten replacement if employees don’t return by an arbitrary date. Don’t post their jobs as vacant since coworkers might alert them.
In rare cases, their motivation is greed. You can’t do much about that—other than avoid giving them ammunition. If the injured feel you’re accusatory, they’ll be more likely to retaliate with a lawsuit. And, as you know, that’s not healthy for your bottom line.