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Following are some basic elements of a good accident response program. These tips came from the suggestions of experienced worker's compensation claims personnel and defense attorneys. By following these suggestions you should be able to not only reduce exaggerated or abusive claims, you should also bring down costs from true workplace injuries.
Develop a clear and strong policy statement on the importance of promptly reporting all suspected accidents and injuries to supervisors or designated worker's compensation claims representatives. Make it clear that filing false claims is grounds for discharge. Put the statement in work rules and procedure manuals. Make sure all employees know and understand the policy and rules.
Make sure that all supervisors know how to handle worker's compensation claims, including:
Poor communication between the employer and the insurer is very often at the root of inappropriate payment of marginal or invalid claims. Train your claims reporting personnel on how to thoroughly document a reported injury. Unfortunately, filling out forms tends to be regarded as menial or undesirable work. As a result, inexperienced people fill them out. Have an experienced person fill in the form and make sure the facts stated in it are accurate.
Ask for a statement about the nature of the accident and the injury suffered from the claimant. Let them record the cause and nature of the accident in their own words. Encourage them to be specific. They should sign and date the statement.
Reenact accidents — even minor ones — to determine what happened and how the hazard can be avoided in the future. The emphasis of this reenactment should be safety and injury prevention; gathering useful evidence of abuse is just a by-product. If possible, include union representative, safety manager, supervisor, injured worker, and other interested parties. The more visible and "team oriented" the effort, the better.
Promptly report the claim to your carrier along with any suspicious circumstances that may require further investigation. Late reporting of claims increases lost time and medical cost, fosters abusive claims, and increases the probability of expensive litigation.
Have the supervisor accompany the injured worker to the provider for emergency or, with the employee's permission, to initial non-emergency treatment. The supervisor should observe the quality of treatment and report any problems to the company, e.g., long delays, rude treatment, or doctors that seem to be "out of touch" with occupational injuries. Getting the injured worker to high quality doctors that are savvy to occupational medicine is one of your best means of avoiding exaggerated claims. The supervisor should try to talk to the provider about the nature of the injury and options for early return to work.
The employer should periodically check with the medical provider to discuss return to work options.
Stay in touch with your injured employee. Encourage them to stay faithful to prescribed therapy. Encourage employees to keep medical appointments and to be available when you call.
Make the main purpose of your safety program the prevention of injuries to your workers by the removal of hazards, proper training and the enforcement of safe work habits. Make this intention clear to your workforce.