It happens all too often when an employee gets hurt on the job. He gets medical care, gets taken off work, and then ends up sitting at home with little contact from his employer, not really understanding the workers’ compensation process, feeling increasingly isolated, and getting frustrated that his claim doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
In that situation, it’s almost guaranteed the injured worker will hire a lawyer – and the cost of the claim will go up.
There are several reasons why injured workers might hire an attorney to represent them in their workers’ compensation claims, and you might be surprised how many of them have to do with a simple lack of communication, such as:
- Fear of getting fired because of being injured on the job
- Perception that the employer believes the injury is fake or illegitimate
- Lack of contact with the employer
- Lack of information about the claim
- Dissatisfaction with claim decisions
So how do you address this communication gap? Following these tips can help you take control of claims early in the process and keep them from turning into costly legal nightmares.
- Start the conversation immediately. As soon as possible after a workplace injury, talk to the injured worker to get the details about what happened and why, and provide him or her with information about the workers’ compensation process.
- Set expectations early. Let your injured workers know what to expect. Talk through any issues and help them understand the process. Assure them they won’t lose their job because they filed a workers compensation claim, and reinforce those sentiments by discussing light duty and other return-to-work options.
- Touch bases weekly. A weekly phone call is a simple yet powerful and valuable technique to make a connection and keep all parties up to date on what’s going on with the claim. These weekly calls are also the perfect opportunity to assess the injured worker’s attitude. Are they cooperative or combative? Is there frustration, fear, and anger, or are they satisfied with the way the claim is progressing? Time spent connecting is time well spent. It offers the perfect opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your employees, and to help eliminate the uncertainty and miscommunication that often prompts litigation.
- Demonstrate your sincere concern about the injured worker’s recovery. Talk to the injured worker about how the medical treatment is progressing, how physical therapy is progressing, how their relationship with their nurse case manager is going, etc. Getting regular medical updates and having those conversations with the injured worker shows that you care about how they’re healing, progressing, and recovering.
- Get them back to work. Ensure that your company is committed to bringing injured workers back, whether it is full, light or modified work. Getting them back in the game helps them continue to feel like a part of the team, avoid the detachment and depression of languishing at home, and more smoothly transition back to regular duty.
- Partner with your claims examiner. A proactive claims examiner can make or break a workers’ compensation claim. Examiners are an integral part of the communication process with the injured worker. Since they do not directly work for you, often times they can bridge the gap with the employee and help keep communication running smoothly. If you feel like you don’t have the relationship you need with the claims staff assigned to your account or enough control over your program, explore the option of Self-Insurance with the experts at Republic Capital.
Keeping your workers’ compensation claims out of court is a sure cost saver, and a little communication with your injured workers goes a long way in avoiding a costly legal battle.
For more tips on controlling your workers’ compensation costs, talk to the California workers’ compensation insurance experts at Republic Capital. Also, download our free report, “How Much Could You Save by Self-Insuring Your Work Comp?”