In Workers’ Compensation, never rush to create an enemy
Once you report an accident, it is going to increase your experience modifier, cause you plenty of headaches and give rise to a mountain of frustrations. Unfortunately, that is the cost of doing business in an industry where your employees may get hurt. Notwithstanding the legal requirements for handling an accident reported to you, there is an additional step that is often overlooked – that of not creating an enemy.
Injuries Do Not Make Enemies
Your employees will get hurt on the job. There is no way to avoid it. Not every employee who is hurt on the job is a liar, a malingerer or someone simply looking for a free ride. Forget that these employees may not live up to your personal expectations about someone’s dedication to a job or of your beliefs about how someone should work with utter disregard for his or her own ailments. Your employees will get hurt, and there will be questions raised about whether the accident occurred, the severity of the injury, or the true nature of their limitations. This will occur in almost every case. And, while you may be frustrated with the system, the laws, or how much money you spend on compensation insurance, your first priority must always be to take care of your injured employees.
Let Go of Assumptions
Your employee is not your enemy. For those employees legitimately hurt, they are scared about their medical condition. They are likely scared about a possible loss of income and how they will pay their bills. The pain and limitations accompanying an injury can be terrifying enough on their own, but when you add a common belief that anyone asserting a claim for compensation benefits is always terminated and questions about how they will support themselves and their family if their injury is severe, most people simply not think as clearly as they do when in an injured state. Do not believe that all injured employees not thinking or acting normally are automatically liars. Sure, some “injured” employees are certainly liars and some are trying to make a minor injury into something more for their own profit. However, determining whether these abnormal actions are enough to defeat or weaken their claim is something that should be weighed in conjunction with your adjustor and your attorney.
Invest By Showing Interest
In the meantime, always take the opportunity to learn about your employee and take an interest in their recovery. For example, have you called to check on them? Did you see if they needed anything? Your employee may feel more comfortable talking to you about an issue than with the adjuster. If the issue is important, bring it to the adjuster’s attention. It may be an issue that has not yet been brought to the adjustor’s attention. It will ultimately be much cheaper for you to bring it to the adjustor’s attention than if the employee’s attorney has to bring it to the adjuster’s attention.
Simply handing your employee off to what they may see as the “big, bad, insurance company,” never works to your advantage. Look at 80% of the commercials on television and of the billboards on the roadside. These are exactly the thoughts and fears that many attorneys actively cultivate. Has pushing an injured employee to obtain legal counsel ever worked out to their employer’s favor?
If you simply hand the claim off to the adjustor, your injured employee will see themselves being part of your company’s family one day and treated as an enemy on the next. Take advantage of the employment relationship that you have built up for weeks, months, or years. Be a liaison between the adjuster and your employee, until your employee is comfortable communicating with the adjuster or if the employee prefers, continue to work as a conduit for communication between the employee and the adjustor. That effort will pay dividends in your relationship with the employee and the employee’s relationship with the adjuster.
Remember, if you create a situation where your employee feels abandoned by you, they need only read a telephone number off of a billboard on the roadside for an attorney advertising that they care more than you.
Allen & Gooch is providing this legal update for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. You should consult your own attorney concerning your particular situation and any specific legal questions you may have.