Plaintiff attorney offers his perspective on ways to save litigation costs by treating injured workers better.
Plaintiff attorneys are not who you want to see when an employee gets hurt on-the-job. We are hired to maximize the amount of recovery from workers’ compensation insurance. This means potentially larger payouts for medical treatment and/or wage loss benefits for injured workers. Whether your business is self-insured or has insurance, this is going to cost additional money in the long-run.
Workers’ compensation typically pays benefits without controversy. Most employees want to get back to work and there is little incentive to drag the process out. However, we still get daily telephone calls from injured workers who do not understand their legal rights or have been treated very poorly.
We typically show up if workers’ compensation benefits have been disputed. But we also monitor claims that are in voluntary payment status and look for potential issues. Keeping your employees well informed about the claim process and helping them get back to work quickly are ways to keep us away.
Employers get upset when they believe a workers’ compensation case has been filed for no good reason. They get hit with litigation costs and potentially higher insurance premiums. Here are some ways to save money by treating injured workers better.
Have better communication
Many of the telephone calls and emails to our office involve simple questions about workers’ compensation benefits. Who will pay medical bills? Can they choose a doctor? How much should be paid in lost wages? When can they expect a first check?
We regularly see injured workers who are kept in the dark and have no idea what is happening with their claim. They do not even know if benefits will be paid. This creates stress and breeds mistrust. Please remember that you are dealing with a human being and loss of income can be devastating to a family.
It does not help when injured employees get cryptic telephone calls from third-party administrators who are investigating the claim. Our clients immediately go on the defensive when invasive questions are asked by people they do not know.
We recommend letting the injured workers know what is happening with each stage of the claim. Inform them if benefits will be delayed and allow them a chance to fix whatever problem are happening. Let the employee resolve inconsistencies or secure additional medical proof.
Do not interfere with medical treatment
Access to medical care is one of the most important benefits under workers’ compensation in Michigan. Employers are required to provide all reasonable and necessary medical treatment regardless of fault. Employers are given sole authority to pick and choose medical providers for the first 28 days.
Selection of medical providers should be used wisely and always for the benefit of injured employees. Do not ignore workplace injuries or refuse to let them see a doctor. Our experience shows that industrial clinics often provide subpar medical care and are not equipped to handle emergencies. Let the injured workers provide input as to the best facility for his or her medical treatment.
Offer light duty
Michigan, like many other states, allows an employer to offer light duty work instead of paying wage loss benefits. This is a job within your employee’s restrictions that poses no threat to health and safety. It must also be a realistic distance from their home.
Resist the temptation to offer a demeaning job that involves little more than watching an empty parking lot or shuffling papers. Give the employee a chance to be productive for your business despite his or her limitations. Do not fire an employee just because he or she is unavailable to work for a short period of time.
Give them a ‘win’ on minor issues
There are minor issues that pop up under workers’ compensation. These might seem insignificant but can mean a great deal to injured workers. Let them miss a few hours each week to complete physical therapy. Sometimes they want items that are not typical covered under workers’ compensation such as orthopedic shoes or ergonomic equipment. We believe these items should be approved without a fight. Giving injured employees a ‘win’ on minor issues can provide a psychological boost and avoid bad feelings.
Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers never charges a fee to evaluate a potential case. Our law firm has represented injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years. Call (844) 201-9497 for a free consultation today.
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