FIVE WORKERS COMP MYTHS WORKERS MAY BELIEVE
Help dispel false ideas and put client employees at ease
By Darin Grimm
Your workers compensation clients face a lot of challenges, but none can be quite as troubling as misinformation. Many of your clients’ employees probably harbor some ideas about workers comp that are outdated, convoluted or just plain wrong. And that’s not surprising, given the evolution of the industry over time.
In most states, workers compensation has existed in some form for more than a century; according to Encyclopedia.com, by 1920, all but six states had enacted legislation. While regulation and reform are a perennial part of the industry today, the line still carries some vestiges of its early reputation. Workers, especially those who have been in the workforce for many years, may be hanging onto ideas about workers comp that haven’t been true for some time.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that workers comp rules can vary widely from one state to another, and certainly internationally. With population mobility, it’s reasonable to imagine that many workers have spent some part of their careers in other jurisdictions. Understandably, many of them might be under some false impressions about how things work where they are.
All this misguided information can add up to trouble when an injury occurs. When an employee experiences a work injury, it can quickly be followed by feelings of fear and uncertainty. The best way to avoid this is to start educating employees early—before an injury happens—so they know what to expect. In the unfortunate event that an injury does occur, keeping the communication lines open is a great way to build trust.
Here are a few of the most common myths your clients may be up against. Share these with them to help them dispel false ideas and put their employees at ease:
This injury will get better on its own. It’s important that workers know to contact a supervisor as soon as an injury occurs, however minor it might appear. We encourage employers to report any injury to us, whether medical attention is necessary or not. We do this primarily because an employer should take any level of employee injury seriously. Even minor injuries can develop into more serious medical concerns down the road. Repeatedly aggravating a small injury can eventually cause major problems, and of course any open wound—no matter how small—creates a risk for infection.
This level of response has other benefits for employers, as well. First, of course, it shows that your clients care about their employees, which goes a long way toward a positive claim experience and outcome. Second, it allows employers to recognize hazards in their work environment before a major accident happens. This is essential to operating a safe and productive business. The sooner you can identify and eliminate risk factors, the better.
I need to hire an attorney when I get hurt at work. Many workers have seen the commercials urging them to hire an attorney if they’ve experienced a work injury. Many times, injured workers follow this advice out of fear. Often, their concern is that if they are unrepresented, they’ll somehow be denied care that they need. Your clients can reassure their employees on this front by developing trust-based cultures in their workplaces. Many times this starts by educating employees on what to expect from the workers comp process before an injury happens. We also strongly encourage employers to routinely stay in touch with injured workers as they recover. The more your clients reach out, the more their injured employees feel like they are still part of a team.
I’ll lose my job if I get hurt at work. A work injury can be a scary thing on its own, but what is even more frightening is the misconception that job loss is an imminent risk. Your clients should maintain communication throughout the recovery process to let the injured employee know that he or she is not forgotten. This is especially true if the situation requires long-term recovery. A return-to-work program is another important strategy to assure injured employees that there is still a place for them at their workplace. In some cases, the treating physician can approve injured workers for light duty before they make a full recovery. Having a program in place to promote this allows employees to return to work in a limited capacity, boosting their morale and decreasing claims costs.
I’ll have to pay for my medical costs. Workers comp exists to protect businesses and their most valuable assets—their employees. Before an accident occurs, explaining how workers comp works is a great way to set expectations and build trust beforehand. In the event of a workplace injury, your clients should assure their employees that medical costs are covered for authorized treatment related to their workplace injury. As long as the employee is covered by a valid workers comp policy, authorized medical treatment for a work injury is covered. Employees who understand their rights as an injured worker are more likely to feel comfortable with the claims process—and less likely to fear that they will be shortchanged.
Many of your clients’ employees probably harbor some ideas about workers comp that are outdated, convoluted or just plain wrong.
My employer and the insurance company will think I’m faking it. The underlying issue here may be a lack of trust between the employee and the employer. Another factor may be the employee’s unfamiliarity with the workers comp process. Either way, it’s important that your clients encourage and maintain communication with employees and educate them on what to expect following an injury. The fact is that workers comp insurers know that accidents happen, even with proper safety training. That’s why we exist. Yes, many workers comp companies—including ours—investigate fraud allegations diligently, but we also know that the vast majority of claims are valid. Workers should have no reason to fear reporting a legitimate injury.
Education drives value
Your clients may not think about workers comp often if their workplace hasn’t experienced an injury, and for those who have dealt with a claim, itmay seem like a confusing hassle they’d rather get past and then forget. As their agent, you can offer knowledge and guidance to help them see workers comp as a vital part of their risk management plan, and you can help them find creative and effective ways to educate their employees about the workers comp process. These efforts can lead to fewer injuries, better outcomes for the acci-dents that do happen and better relationships with your clients overall.
Darin Grimm is vice president of Claim sand Medical Management for Summit, a monoline workers compensation company that is a member of Great American Insurance Group (www.summitholdings.com). He has been with Summit since 2003, most recently serving as vice president of Claims Operations. Darin earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business and Professional Leadership from Southeastern University and a Master of Business Administration from Saint Leo University.