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When a cumulative trauma claim is filed with an employer the approach should be much the same as with all claims, experts say: If the claim is accepted, worker advocacy is often the best medicine.
“Injured worker advocacy and support early in the cycle of the claim is critical,” said Jennifer Cogbill, Frisco, Texas-based senior vice president of GBCare with Gallagher Bassett Services Inc.
The advocacy approach typically involves supporting the worker with improved communication and guidance — the aim is to establish a collaborative relationship instead of one that might be deemed adversarial, according to experts.
“If a worker is presenting with pain, and they’re not sure where to go, we want them to come to us to help them, as opposed to feeling like they need to seek out an attorney to give them the best options on the recovery,” she said.
Employers should establish a trusting relationship with workers and engage with them in the recovery process, said Tammy Bradly, Birmingham, Alabama-based senior director of clinical product marketing for Enlyte Group LLC.
Ms. Bradly said most cumulative trauma injuries take time to heal, and that keeping in touch with workers can help go a long way in avoiding litigation.
Dr. Mary Capelli-Schellpfeffer, Boston-based national medical director for workers compensation claims for Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., said that may include helping workers manage comorbidities or other factors outside of a claim.
“The workers comp industry realizes that there are factors that are going to affect the claim,” she said, adding that better coordination of care between a worker’s current doctors and those treating the injury can help “remove a barrier to communication and assure that that injured worker’s total health is managed.”