As a journalist and writer, I have objectively covered virtually every aspect of workers’ compensation from all perspectives for more than 20 years. Everyone wants to see a better system.
But we can’t, however, seem to get past the tired, old post-industrial revolution debates. Public policy conversations feel more like massive labor-management contract negotiations than forward-thinking conversations about how workers’ compensation can better serve injured workers and their employers.
Meanwhile, too many injured workers are being adversely effected because they do not know how the system is supposed to work.
A concerted effort to educate injured workers on what workers’ compensation experts know is the best way to get past the political rhetoric and see immediate improvements. The workforce needs to know the truth about workers’ compensation. Specifically, injured workers need to know the following:
The sooner they let their employers know about a work-related incident, the quicker they can get workers’ compensation benefits. Workers, employers and insurers do not benefit from delayed claim filing. Informing employers about a work-related incident is also the best way an employer can address a safety hazard to prevent other co-workers from getting hurt. So if you get hurt at work, don’t hesitate. File a claim.
Getting the best immediate care is more important for healing than seeing your general practitioner who is not likely to be familiar with occupational medicine.
Injured workers should never pay a medical bill or accept shoddy physician care. Workers’ compensation provides first dollar coverage, except in Washington state, which requires a co-pay. If your doctor is not helping you get better, ask the insurance company for a nurse case manager who knows who the good docs are.
Public policy conversations feel more like massive labor-management contract negotiations than forward-thinking conversations about how workers’ compensation can better serve injured workers and their employers.
Giving employers and their insurers a chance to respond to a claim filing is often a better bet than hiring attorneys. Workers’ compensation was originally designed as a self-administrating program intended to discourage litigation. One study showed that 46 percent of injured workers who hired attorneys said they did so because they felt their claims had been denied when actually, they were not yet in the process. To learn more about the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute’s (WCRI) study on why injured workers hire attorneys, please click here. (Full disclosure WCRI, an independent research organization, is a client of Lipold Communications, LLC).
Therefore, if you have not heard from the insurer or your employer within a week of reporting the accident, contact your employer to make sure the claim was properly reported. Attorneys get about 10 to 25 percent of paid wage replacement benefits. As with any professional, get good references for lawyers who will advocate for you, not their wallets. Want to know your claim status? Call the insurer’s claim representative.
I hope this blog will encourage a concerted effort to better educate the workforce. Employers can learn more about workers’ compensation communications plans by clicking here.
Next week I will offer more tips. In the meantime, what else do injured workers need to know?
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