Do’s and Don’ts for Employers With Workers’ Compensation Claims | Gardi & Haught, Ltd.
 

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Do’s and Don’ts for Employers With Workers’ Compensation Claims

Do’s and Don’ts for Employers With Workers’ Compensation Claims

By Parag Bhosale

When entrepreneurs start a business, they never plan to become an employer with workers’ compensation claims. But if you have a business, you can potentially have employees that could potentially suffer a workplace-related accident and bring a workers’ compensation claim against you. While you may have insurance to help compensate the employee for their lost wages and medical expenditures, there are many factors that come into play and questions that come to mind once an employee decides to make a claim. Questions such as…

  • Who is at fault for the accident?
  • Was it really an accident?
  • Is the employee faking the severity of their injuries? How do I find out for sure?
  • Do I have to cover all expenses?
  • Can’t I get the employee back to work again?
  • I was going to fire the employee anyway. Can I now?

The answers to these and many other questions are not usually straightforward. Instead, they will be determined by the investigation and information gathering efforts between you, the insurance company, the employee and their health professionals.

However, there are some things that you should know as you head into the murky world of employers with workers’ compensation claims. Here are the most important:

  1. DO communicate early with your employees. This is key to getting all the information while it is fresh in the employees’ minds. It also shows care and compassion for your employees. If people feel you care and you have the employee’s best interest at heart, they will feel comfortable and be honest in disclosing what they saw.
  2. DO get all the facts about an accident—signed, if possible. It is within your rights to interview any and all employees who witness and/or are involved in accident. Have them write a detailed report about what happened or what they saw, and also specifics about what body part or parts were injured. Have the informant sign their report. This will provide you, as the employer, peace of mind in case their story changes, and it will also be helpful information for your insurance company.
  3. DON’T try to resolve the claim on your own. If you have insurance, call them immediately to get them involved. This is what you hire them for! In fact, you may void your coverage by attempting to solve the problem on your own. IF YOU DON’T HAVE INSURANCE AND ARE AN EMPLOYER WITH WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLAIMS– CALL AN ATTORNEY IMMEDIATELY!!!  You may face heavy fines for failing to comply with Illinois law.
  4. DON’T let your (or anyone else’s) impression of the legitimacy of the claim affect your actions towards the employee. If you doubt the legitimacy of the employee’s claim, do not confront them. It will only reinforce their mistrust of you as an employer, and your actions will not reflect well on you should the case end up in court. If you are correct and the employee’s injuries are not legitimate, they will undoubtedly be revealed in a doctor’s physical examination, either on their own or an independently ordered physician visit from the insurance company. Also, train all parties not to minimize the worker’s claims of pain and suffering.  This includes supervisors, HR people and anyone else involved in the company’s  compensation case. Saying anything that indicates you do not believe the worker (i.e., “You’re fine, stop whining”) makes you seem callous and heartless….and generally not a good employer. If they say they cannot work, give them the insurance information and be as helpful as possible.
  5. DO everything in your power to get the employee back to work within restrictions. For example, you may have to place the employee in another job with different duties that they still can perform or let them sit instead of stand at their post. A truly committed employee will happily accept the modified employment and continue to receive benefits. An employee attempting to take advantage of an employer will quit.
  6. DO not fire an employee right after they have made a claim. This will not look good for the company and you could open yourself up to a “retaliatory discharge” lawsuit on behalf of the employee. If the employee’s accident was the result of rule-breaking and he/she had been warned of impending dismissal before, we recommend you consult an attorney before you dismissing them.
  7. DON’T make any agreements to cover or not cover subcontractors. The coverage in these cases is up to your insurance company and your policy, otherwise you could become personally responsible for injuries. For example, if you are a contractor and hire a subcontractor but you don’t tell your insurance company that you agreed to cover the subcontractor, you may have voided your coverage. If the subcontractor is hurt on the job, you may become personally responsible for that individual’s damages.
  8. DO consider short or long-term disability cost. Splitting the cost of an insurance policy moving forward might be a way to prevent a court case for an employer with a workers’ compensation claim. Discuss it with your insurance professional.

 Employers with workers’ compensation claims have the responsibility to handle them correctly. If you need guidance because of an employee’s claim, the attorneys at Gardi & Haught are here to help. Contact us at 847.944.9400 or request a Free Case Evaluation below.

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