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    Avoid Unnecessary Legal Involvement in Workers' Compensation Claims

    The workers' compensation system was designed to provide a method for efficiently returning injured workers to their jobs as soon as possible. Getting lawyers involved in this process when it isn't necessary slows it down, makes it far more inefficient, and adds costs.

    The best way to avoid the need for legal involvement is for the employer to take an active role in the workers' compensation process. Here are a few ways to do that:

    ·   Tie managers' performance evaluations to their concern for safety. The total quality management approach is to tie safety to a manager's raise, bonus or promotion. In that way, it become financially advantageous for managers to be safety-conscious and reduce the possibility of workers' compensation claims.

    ·   Designate an employee to call injured workers once a week. This helps you troubleshoot problems before they escalate. For example, this call might detect that an injured worker has been receiving collection notices for unpaid medical bills, indicating that the compensation claim may not have been processed properly, and alert you to the need to call your workers' compensation insurance carrier.

    ·   Report all injuries. Even if an employee insists that he or she isn't seriously injured, report the incident to your insurer anyway. There may not be any ramifications from the injury now, but there could be in the coming months. If you don't report an injury when it happens, the claim could be rejected as fraudulent later on when you do report it. This could cause the employee to hire legal counsel.

    ·   Monitor the progress of claims. There are many points at which a claim can become bogged down-the employee delays the first doctor's visit, there's a lag time in getting a report from doctor, the employee has to wait to see a specialist, etc. These all have negative effects on the progress of the claim. An employer can improve the efficiency of the process by examining injury records, writing down dates and identifying excessive delays. Reducing delays and maintaining continuity in care will keep the process flowing and eliminate the need for the employee to find an attorney to intervene.

    ·   Don't alienate employees. Many disgruntled employees file workers' compensation claims because they feel the company owes them something, or to get even for poor treatment in the workplace. Most of these revenge claims result from conflicts that could have been avoided if a supervisor had spent more time empathizing with employees.

    Some workers' compensation claims will require the involvement of legal professionals, but if you can keep these occurrences to a minimum, you'll help keep your workers' compensation costs in check.

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