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Communication key in return-to-work programs

return to work

A lawyer representing insurers and employers in workers compensation litigation said the biggest complaint he hears from injured workers — often in front of a judge — is: “My employer just forgot about me. They never called me.”

It’s why return-to-work programs that are ingrained into the business and are compassionate are vital to getting claims resolved, according to presenters Wednesday at Riskworld, the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.’s annual conference in Atlanta.

“You want to have your company brand supporting the program,” said Zachary Rubinich, Philadelphia-based partner at Rawle & Henderson LLP. “You want to have the collaborative, integrated team approach. That's where you will get your best outcomes.”

Xavier Trapp, Atlanta-based senior manager of claims for Floor & Décor Holdings Inc., said a return-to-work program that involves constant communication is essential. Most injured workers want to work, and money is always a concern, he said.

“If I get injured at work, my very first thought is: Where’s my next paycheck?” he said. “If you've never been in a situation where you've had to worry and be anxious like that, that could be incredibly debilitating to you.

“The way that we structure (our program) is we have constant communication with our injured workers. And we don't just rely upon our (third-party administrator) or insurer to make those kinds of calls. It starts and ends with us.”

Of the company’s 14,000 workers, only about 30 are typically out of work at a time for an injury, he said.  

In addition to Floor & Décor’s weekly conversations with the injured worker, calls often follow doctor appointments. Overall, the company involves its risk manager, the worker’s supervisor, and human resources personnel in the process to assess the injured worker’s health and well-being.

“If the process fails, that’s our fault,” Mr. Trapp said.