A “Culture of Caring”: How to Avoid Work Comp Litigation

It is my experience that companies that truly (or at least give the appearance of) caring for injured workers will significantly reduce their claims costs and avoid unnecessary litigation. The term “Culture of Caring” should be applied when companies are putting together their injury management plans. A large portion of these plans should be dedicated to “how the injured employee perceives, or feels about us, and the medical treatment they are receiving throughout their injury period?”

In many cases injured workers become “invisible” employees at the time of injury. They are left to fend for themselves through the maze that is the Workers Compensation Carrier, the Third Party Claims Administration, and the primary treating physician (or MPN provider). They become a non-person until they are cleared to return to modified or full duty. In these instances there are many things that can sidetrack the claim. The injured worker feels that the employer does not care about their injury and they usually tend to seek someone who will give them the support they feel they are entitled to. In short, they become a victim. If they do not get caring and support from the employer, they will find it elsewhere in friends, fellow employees, and sometimes through plaintiff’s attorneys.

Litigation is on the rise in Workers Compensation, which cannot be denied. But there are things you, as an employer, can do with injured employees to limit that litigation exposure.

I have several clients that, on my recommendation, put someone to this task specifically. This person is the first company personnel that the injured worker connects with post -injury. This “Claims / Safety Manager” actually manages the nuts and bolts of the injury all the way from filing first report to providing transportation to and from medical appointments to make sure that the appointment can happen. The attitude in which this is done is very critical to the injured party feeling important or needed in the eyes of the employer. This perception not only increases a bond between the employee and the employer, but it keeps the claim on track and “inside the system”.  It assures that the injured employee can openly comment to the employer on the care being given, and gives the employer maximum control over the medical services that need to be provided and by whom. At this company the litigation percentage is less than 10% of average, and we believe that is simply a product of the employer making the effort to let the employee know that the company cares about their problem and wants and needs them to be back at their normal job. They are no longer a “victim”; they are a much needed, critical cog of the machine that is the employers business.

I realize that not all employers are in a position to hire a person that is specific to this purpose, but even a simple call from a supervisor to the injured party after the injury occurs, wishing them well in getting better and making them feel needed, goes a long way towards this end. Convincing the injured worker that they are wanted and needed at their position is critical in the process.

 There are many tools and techniques that we have that can help employers decrease the victim factor and avoiding expensive litigation where it is not needed. All any employer has to do is call (or e-mail) me and I can help you in developing a “Culture of Caring” within your operation.

Guy Teafatiller

guyt@vanbeurden.com

Vice President | Kingsburg