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Seven ways employers can help win litigated cases

When an employee's attorney files for a hearing or mediation, it's a sure sign that the costs of the claim are going to be higher, adversely affecting Workers' Comp premiums. Here are seven ways employers can mitigate the damage:

  1. Recognize importance of First Report of Injury
    Many problems on a Workers' Comp claim are traceable to the First Report of Injury. While the injury should be reported as soon as possible after it has occurred, the report needs to be accurate and complete, as it will be held up against medical testimony. Unlike witnesses, documents cannot change their story. When possible, make sure the injured employee signs the report.
  2. Have an established system for all incident investigations
    Ideally, supervisors should carry on the investigation, as they are most knowledgeable about the type of work involved. Supervisors need to be fair, objective and impartial. If an adversarial relationship exists between the supervisor and employee, recognize the escalating chances of a challenge to the investigation. Statements from witnesses should be obtained within 24 hours after the incident, when memories are fresh and witnesses' opinions have not had a chance to be influenced by others.
  3. Quickly provide thorough information to the insurance carrier and defense counsel
    Reporting new litigation promptly to your insurer is the first step. Follow it up with a phone call to be sure it is in the right hands. Time and facts are needed to properly prepare for the first hearing. Provide the first report of injury, witness statements, information from others who may know about the equipment or causes of injury, job description, time sheets, personnel files, etc. Employers should provide any information on past medical history that is allowed under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
  4. Discuss the Return to Work opportunities with the attorney
    The defense attorney may know little about your company. It is helpful to educate the attorney about your company including what jobs the injured employee can perform as modified duty and that the employer is willing to work with the employee.
  5. Evaluate the value of surveillance
    Surveillance is not necessary for all claims, but it is valuable in many cases. If there is doubt about the validity of the claim, if it seems exaggerated or if there have been rumors circulating among employees, notify the attorney.
  6. Discuss the options with the attorney early in the process
    Before incurring the costs of discovery, get a reading from the defense attorney on the prospects for the case. Be open to an early settlement, if it seems the best option. Economic uncertainty has added to the challenge of closing older claims. Closure rates have slowed, as claimants would rather keep their options open than settle. The longer the claim is open, the more costly it is. This reinforces the importance to work toward closing cases early in the life of a claim.
  7. Be proactive
    If you proceed with the claim stay involved – being proactive ensures your claim gets attention. Be available to testify as a witness and always respond promptly to the insurer's and attorney's requests. Keep the process moving as delays only allow the employee to collect indemnity payments longer and incur more medical costs, which will be encouraged by the plaintiff's injury to increase settlements.