Here’s a little something to think about as we head toward the end of the year. There’s been a disturbing rise in the number of Workers’ Compensation claims from people who recently lost their jobs. A post termination claim prevents the unemployment insurance clock from ticking while providing money and health insurance to the claimant.
Workers who feel that their jobs are in jeopardy take more time to return from disability. After all, in their minds why rush if getting healthy means a pink slip. “There is a [claims] cost,” Darrell Brown, workers’ comp practice lead for Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc., told Business Insurance. “If someone knows that their job is going away, or has been eliminated, the motivation to return to work is much less.”
People who know they may be facing a lay-off may also balk at return-to-work programs aimed at integrating them back into the workplace, even if they must enter into modified work arrangements.
There are two ways the recession can negatively affect workers’ comp claims from the employer’s angle:
1. Employees that have already been terminated may also try to reopen old claims or even file new claims. These would likely be for progressive soft-tissue injuries or back injuries, which are often hard to dispute.
2. Employees that were injured earlier on the job may try to stay on the dole longer, particularly if their employers have already engaged in lay-offs.
Risk managers recommend that employers along with claims adjusters be more alert for illegitimate claims. Also, try to get open claims off the books as quickly as possible. A good way is to identify claims that can be closed – when medically feasible and close them.
Another safeguard is for the employer to write up highly descriptive job functions in company documents. If written properly, the documentation can show the doctor that the worker is able to return to his or her job, be it with their present employer or another. Taking these step can help reduce your exposure and keep claims to a minimum.