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Stress can affect an employee’s return to work after an accident, but employers can alleviate it by thoroughly explaining the workers compensation claims process to injured workers, experts say.
Stressful relationships may develop between injured workers and employers when the claim is underway — often because of the lack of communication between the employee and the employer about the comp claims process, said Matthew Fisher, a shareholder at workers compensation defense firm Reinisch Wilson Weier PC in Portland, Oregon.
Most workers have no knowledge of workers comp or the system, he said, suggesting employers do a better job of ensuring that someone in human resources maintains a certain level of proficiency in workers comp and can explain what happens after an injury.
“You need to explain to the worker, ‘Here’s what the next few steps are going to look like as we submit this to your insurance carrier, the adjuster is going to call you and go through these issues with you …’ so the worker doesn’t feel overwhelmed,” he said.
A well-trained supervisor is key, as demonstrated by a situation with a former client that was having 50% of its claims litigated, said Joe Galusha, group managing director of risk control and claims with Aon PLC in Southfield, Michigan. “When we dug into the issue, we found it was because of the trust level — nobody was talking to the (injured worker),” he said.
The company created a communication plan that included contacting workers after their injuries, sending them a brochure in the form of a “get well” card that explained the comp process, and having supervisors routinely make follow-up calls to update the employees and check on their well-being — measures that decreased the claims litigation rate to less than 10%, Mr. Galusha said.
Mental duress can cause more than just frazzled nerves — stress can lead employees to make more mistakes, instigating workplace accidents and potential injuries.