Tread carefully when a workers’ comp claim comes up. It’s easy for employers to make critical errors that open them up to legal issues, additional liability claims, and bad feelings among staff. Here are five common mistakes with good lessons for all employers.
SEE ALSO: What is Workers Compensation Insurance?
MISTAKE 1: Not Taking it Seriously
It’s common to joke about workers’ comp claims. “Hey, I got a paper cut! Guess I should file for workers’ comp!”
Your company might have an upbeat team atmosphere that allows for some kidding around. But your employees - especially your top management - should understand the difference between jokes and serious situations. If someone is injured, or comes to HR to talk about a claim, take it seriously from the first moment.
Not being taken seriously is one of the top reasons employees file additional claims later, after an initial workers’ comp claim. So don’t minimize your employees’ feelings or blow them off. Allow them to be heard.
The lesson: View the claimant as a partner in an unfortunate, but resolvable, situation.
MISTAKE 2: Not Documenting the Details
Every report of a workplace injury, no matter how small, should be investigated. It’s your chance to interview witnesses, get statements, review video or audio, and build a record of details before memories fade. You’ll need the following details for an insurance claim:
- Exact time of injury
- Details about whether it was an instantaneous injury or evolved over time
- Location of injured party and any item or equipment involved
- Witnesses and their exact locations
- Moment-by-moment details from witnesses
- Type of bodily injury
- Any property damage
- Audio and video recordings, with timestamps if possible
- Other details, as advised by your insurance provider
The lesson: Record details immediately or you may lose them forever.
MISTAKE 3: Moving Too Slowly
If you move too slowly on a workers’ comp claim, you’ll create a cascade of problems. Your injured employee won’t feel valued. You’ll miss the opportunity to gather details. The insurance company won’t be able to move forward with the claim. The company could be exposed to additional legal and financial issues as time goes by.
Remember, as an employer it is your responsibility to work with your injured worker and get them back to work as quickly as medically advisable. If you don’t, your employee could feel entitled to lost wages or other compensation as a result of your inaction.
The lesson: Act fast, for the benefit of your employee and your company.
MISTAKE 4: Not Staying in Touch
After the workers’ comp claim is filed, stay in touch with the employee. They’ll need your guidance during the claims process, and they could feel frustrated if you don’t provide it. Employees often feel pushed to file additional lawsuits against their employers purely because the employer is stalling or ignoring them.
Maybe the employee is developing severe inflammation from the injury, and should be put back on light work duty for a while. Inflammation is a common secondary injury in workers’ comp situations. It’s the kind of thing you notice by staying in touch.
The lesson: Limit injury, frustration, and additional claims through ongoing communication.
MISTAKE 5: Retaliating, Even Inadvertently
Your company would never retaliate against an employee who makes a workers’ comp claim. Right?
Unfortunately, retaliation can take many forms and isn’t always obvious to top company leadership. Coworkers may hassle an injured employee and create a hostile work environment. A manager might feel resentful and leave them out of company meetings. The injured worker may feel passed over for a promotion due to their injury.
Retaliation is a growing issue in employment law. Workers are increasingly claiming that their employers retaliated against them after they reported something to management. It’s a risky legal situation that encompasses discrimination and harassment.
The lesson: Educate your employees about the proper way to handle workers’ comp claims: quickly, fairly, openly, and in the spirit of cooperation.
Interested in learning more about why your organization needs workers’ comp insurance? Click here to talk to one of our independent agents today.