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A Crash Course in the Life of an Injured Worker

life of an injured workerCAROL JAMROSZ
RGL Logistics VP of Risk Management

I have been involved in safety awareness, injury prevention, and employee return-to-work programs for over 15 years. Having successfully lowered injury frequency, severity, and lost-time injuries, I was confident in my approach to the care of injured workers.

That was until I was injured in a recent car crash. My “crash course” opened my eyes to the questions, concerns, and choices injured employees face. And when you read between the lines in this whole scenario, you can see how it plays into controlling workers compensation costs.

If one of your employees is injured, do they know who to call? Injured employees are looking for someone to help them recover, both physically and mentally. They want to talk about what happened. Are you giving them the chance? If you don’t, an attorney will. Once an attorney is involved, you lose your opportunity to work with your employee to resolve the injury, and the costs go up significantly.

Injured employees want to know everything is being taken care of. Are you talking to your employee about the status of her claim? The Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) reports that 46 percent of employees who turned to an attorney did so because they thought their claim had been denied.

Most injured employees do not understand the claims process. WCRI reports that 23 percent of injured employees got an attorney involved because they were worried about being laid off or fired. Many of their fears can be addressed by simply giving them a written plan for how pay and benefits will be administered during their recovery.

Injured employees want to feel that someone is checking up on them and cares about their recovery. Without your communication, they will find someone else who will listen to them — an attorney, a doctor, a pharmacist. These options add dollars to the claim, but may not do as much good for the employee as a simple conversation with you about how they are doing.

Having recently been injured in a car crash, I now better understand the fear and anxiety. Here is how my case transpired:

My doctor listened to my story and asked if I was getting an attorney. I told him that wasn’t my plan, but I was getting concerned about not hearing from the insurance companies. He told me he works with a few attorneys and gave me their business cards. A few days later, I decided I had waited long enough, so I called one of the referred attorneys.

Do you know what happens to an employee when they talk to an attorney? The attorney becomes their best friend. They ask all the right questions and make the employee feel like somebody cares. You don’t have to answer any more questions, talk to insurance adjusters, or have any other concerns. They will take care of everything for you.

They will line you up with just the right kind of medical provider for your type of injury. For me, it was a pain clinic. The attorney explained that it is always best to have a second opinion about the severity of the injury to get the medical bills paid. He even offered to make the appointment for me.

I met with the doctor at the pain clinic. After a brief exam, he told me I would be fine and that I should continue treatment with my doctor. He prescribed three different medications and told me to come back in a month. The clinic gave me a list of the pharmacies that would fill my prescriptions and bill my attorney.

It has only been a month from my date of injury, but I can see where this claim is headed. I have already added the cost of an attorney, the cost of a second medical opinion, and multiple prescriptions. But I don’t feel that the added costs have in any way enhanced my recovery.

This claim could have gone in a totally different direction. Simply having someone to talk to about my basic questions would have eliminated the desire to involve an attorney.

So who's is talking to your injured workers? Who should be? Controlling workers compensation costs starts with candid and caring conversation. It’s your call.

Carol Jamrosz is Vice President of Risk Management for RGL Logistics. This post originally appeared on RGL's blog.

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Photo by Daniel Lobo via Flickr

Topics: Construction Transportation Safety / Compliance Manufacturing