Blueprint to Saving on Your Workers’ Compensation

By: Tami Phillips, Commercial Lines Sales Executive

One of the least expensive and simplest ways to save on your Workers’ Compensation is to have a blueprint in place for handling a workplace incident.   Having a blueprint, or plan in place to be proactive during the claim process, can significantly reduce both the time and money spent as a result of an injury.  A successful blueprint starts will building rapport with employees.  Rapport is a term used to describe, in common terms, the relationship of two or more people who are in sync or on the same wavelength because they relate well to each other. 

When an injury occurs to an employee and medical treatment has been received, the employee’s immediate concern is how the injury is going to affect his or her employment as well as how to take care of personal responsibilities.  The employer who saves on Workers’ Compensation by having a blueprint in place will be in contact and have walked through the process with the employee addressing any concerns, giving the employee a sense of rapport. 

The Blueprint

  • Be proactive.  Either go with the employee to the doctor or call to check on him or her the same day to see how treatment went.   Follow up after each doctor’s appointment.
  • Be genuine.  Employees know when you are truly concerned about them and when you are just looking at your bottom line.
  • Be assuring.  Advise the employee that the claim has been reported to the carrier and an adjuster should be in contact within the next 24 hours.
  • Be thorough.  Ask the employee if he or she has any questions on how the claim will be handled, what is going to occur and how you can be of assistance to the employee throughout the process. 
  • Be attentive.  Inform the employee that you are willing to do whatever you can to get him or her back to work.  A return to work program should already be in place.
  • Be safe.  Ask the employee what you can do to prevent this from occurring again.  
  • Be reassuring.  Let the employee know that his or her job will be there (if you can).
  • Be informative.  Explain your return to work program as needed to help the employee understand that Workers’ Compensation does not start right away and it only pays a percentage of wages. 

By maintaining contact and being proactive with employees, the employer will maintain rapport with employees. Getting employees back to work faster will help avoid extensive indirect costs as well as attorney battles originating from poor communication.

What Employers Should Know When Internally Handling Workers’ Compensation Claims

Previously, we discussed the importance of employers implementing careful policies and procedures in regards to workers’ compensation and handling injuries in the workplace. If an employer is able to handle medical bills and compensation claims internally, they should take notice of certain legal obligations to the injured worker.

The North Carolina Industrial Commission outlines an employer’s duties to follow when internally handling workers’ compensation claims, which include:

  • Employers must immediately report to their company’s insurance carrier any injury or occupational disease sustained in the course of employment for which attention by a physician is needed.
  • Employers must also immediately report to their company’s insurance carrier any allegation by an employee of injury or occupational disease sustained in the course of employment, for which attention by a physician is needed.

If an employee is injured at work and must be absent from his or her place of employment for more than one day, or medical expenses for the employee exceed $2,000, the employer or insurance carrier must file a claim with the NC Industrial Commission within five days of learning of the injury or allegation. The required item is Form 19, the “Employer’s Report of Employee’s Injury to the Industrial Commission.”

Regardless of an employer’s decision to handle a workers’ compensation claim internally, the employer should always report the claim with their insurance carrier. It is always recommended that an employer offer benefits including individual disability and long-term care to their employees in order to help with on-the-job injury claims and compensation.

Employers should notify the insurance carrier that the claim is being handled internally and reported “for record use only.” This gives the carrier the knowledge that a potential workers’ compensation claim has occurred and that it may develop into a compensable claim for a carrier. A compensable claim is one for which an employee is eligible medical benefits, wage replacement or both.

Before an injury happens and an employee files a workers’ compensation claim, employers need to be proactive in recognizing their obligations and complying with state law. Talking with an insurance carrier can help answer questions and eliminate concerns before problems arise.

Photo Credit: Flickr user alancleaver_2000

Familiarize Yourself With Workers’ Compensation Changes In North Carolina

Previously, we talked about the importance of an employer being covered by workers’ compensation in the case of an accident at the office. Workers’ compensation gives both employers and employees coverage in regards to financial and medical aid if an accident leading to injury happens at the office. It is important to keep up to date on the latest workers’ compensation laws, as employers need to make sure they know what to do when dealing with claims.

North Carolina legislators have recently made a few changes to the state’s workers’ compensation laws. Of particular interest are changes in the “Willful Misrepresentation In Applying For Employment” section, which details the circumstances in which compensation for an injured employee would be barred. Grounds for barring compensation include:

  • An employee knowingly and willfully making a false representation as to his physical condition.
  • An employer relying on the false representation as a substantial factor in hiring said employee.
  • A causal connection between the false representation and the injury or occupational disease.

In light of these changes, employers should make sure that they implement internal policies for the hiring of new employees, with regards to current medical condition and the physical mandates of the position. If no such policy is in place, there are several steps an employer can take:

  • Conduct research for examples of solid internal hiring policies.
  • Add a confidential post-offer, pre-placement medical questionnaire as part of the company’s hiring practices.
  • Brief HR personnel on any new workers’ compensation procedures in the hiring process.

These simple measures can save an employer’s experience modification rate and workers’ compensation loss ratio. Before implementing any new procedures, however, it is recommended that an employer consult on these matters with an attorney. Knowing the specifics of workers’ compensation and any changes in state law will save a company both time and money.

Photo Credit: Flickr User wools

Keeping Employees Safe By Keeping Them Cool

During the summer months, you might find it hard to step outside without breaking a sweat. Employers need to take the necessary steps to make sure that their employees are protected from this heat and heat-related illnesses.

Outdoor heat is obviously not controllable, but you can take steps to make sure that employees are safe and comfortable indoors during hot weather conditions. Though more than 30 workers in the United States died from heat-related illnesses last year, many employers forget about the hot weather impact on indoor employees.

Workers’ Compensation

Employers should know that heat-related illnesses are not only health issues, but workers’ compensation issues as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extreme heat adds unnecessary and damaging stress to an employee’s body. This often results in heat cramps or exhaustion that can lead to further injury at work.

In order to avoid employee injury and having to navigate workers compensation claims, employers should make every effort to keep their employees cool.

How To Keep Cool

Many heat-related illnesses can be prevented by proper monitoring and maintenance of indoor air quality. As outdoor temperatures rise, more and more air conditioning units break down. In many cases, air conditioning issues cannot be fixed quickly due to a high number of maintenance calls to repairmen. Therefore, it is necessary that employers make sure that air conditioning systems and units are of high quality and regularly checked for problems in advance of summer to avoid employee discomfort and health issues.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, encourages businesses to take other measures to keep employees safe in extreme heat. These suggestions include:

  • Drinking water often
  • Dressing appropriately for the weather
  • Taking regular breaks
  • Limiting exposure to outdoor heat

Keeping indoor employees cool during periods of extreme heat is an issue that presents concerns for many employers. It is important to remember that indoor conditions can be controlled and heat-related illnesses can be prevented.

 

The Importance of EPLI Coverage

The number of retaliatory claims made by dismissed workers has skyrocketed 55 percent since 2000. This figure has jumped 7 percent this past year alone, with an all-time high of 100,000 new claims against former employers. While workers’ compensation and general liability insurance cover most incidents in the workplace, these retaliatory claims are not.

This situation catches many employers off guard and can cause an almost insurmountable financial burden for a business. Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) protects your business beyond the coverage that workers’ compensation and general liability provide.

Why is This Happening?

Industry experts have been able to pinpoint a couple of reasons that this surge might be taking place. Some say that the economy is to blame, and dismissed workers who know they might not be able to find work for a while are looking to get as much from their former employer as possible.

The second possible reason is that in 2008 the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was given expanded authorities under the ADA Amendments Act, Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. These new authorities, coupled with increased accessibility to the EEOC, allow for easier filing from employees who feel they have been wrongfully terminated.

Why Do You Need EPLI?

Take this story as an example. A waitress at a restaurant was dismissed for poor performance, all of which was properly documented over the period of a few months. This employee was also pregnant, and she felt that her termination was not due to her poor performance but her condition. The restaurant, which did not have EPLI coverage, spent $100,000 for defense costs in court alone.

Verdicts for plaintiffs in these types of cases can reach upward of $1 million. EPLI coverage can cover your defense costs and help to defer the cost of the award, should the court side with the defendant in a wrongful termination suit.

No insurance can guarantee that an employee who is let go will not turn around and accuse your business of wrongful termination. However, you can prevent their suit from causing your business immense financial damage in order to defend yourself in court. Call your insurance agent today to make sure you have adequate protection.

 

Image: Joelk75