There are two primary methods to reduce the likelihood of workers’ compensation lawsuits as a staffing agency. The first is to prevent injuries in the workplace from occurring. The second is to reduce the likelihood that job-injured employees decide to sue. The following four ways to avoid workers’ compensation lawsuits fit nicely into these two primary methods:
1) Maintain a Safe Workplace
In order to reduce the number of workplace injuries — and therefore workers’ compensation lawsuits — human resource professionals should implement a workplace safety program within the organization. Proper training of workplace safety procedures is key, as is enforcement of thee procedures. Removal of hazards, proper use and maintenance of equipment, and guarding against workplace violence are a few examples of workplace safety tips. It’s important to note that every employee has the right to work in a safe work environment that contains minimal risk and exposure to physical and health hazards. The best way to avoid workers’ compensation litigation is to prevent workplace injuries in the first place. Moreover, prevention is usually significantly less costly than litigation.
2) Communicate Effectively
Poor communication between an employer and insured worker is often the root cause of workers’ compensation litigation. Recruiters and human resources professionals are urged to employ ways to get injured workers back to the workplace without a workers compensation lawsuit. Cutting off communication with an injured employee is like adding insult to injury. It can be the fuel an employee needs to retain an attorney.
David Langham, a workers’ compensation administrative law judge, recommends phoning the injured worker every week to say, “How are you doing? We look forward to having you back.” Langham believes such reaching out can lead to a higher number of injured employees returning to work. Most importantly, the phone call should be interactive, but they should also be short and focused, advises Langham. The goal is to prevent injured employees from initiating a workers’ compensation lawsuit.
3) Obtain accurate injury information.
When an accident occurs, require employees to complete a statement of the exact nature of the accident and the injury suffered. In their own words, the employee should record the cause of the accident and type of injury sustained, in a very detailed and specific manner. The employee should sign and date this statement. Prompt reporting of workers’ compensation claims can decrease the likelihood of expensive litigation.
4) Discuss return to work options.
It’s important to check in with the employee regularly. What does the employee’s physician say about returning to work? Has the employee kept up with physical therapy? Encourage the injured employee to keep all medical and physical therapy appointments. Keep this in mind: an injured employee can be fearful of losing his job. While the employee may not be able to assume the same duties before her injury, there is often a light duty option.
Preventing workplace injuries is the first defense against workers’ compensation litigation. Accommodating injured employees to lessen the number of workers’ compensation claims turning into litigation is the second.