By Martin Perrier
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Employers can help reduce their workers’ compensation claims costs by encouraging injured employees to report incidents as soon as possible.
Strict reporting deadlines may cause workers to hide their injuries. This can allow an untreated condition to worsen or it can encourage injured workers to hire an attorney to avoid repercussions because they delayed reporting.
A study released by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) in May 2015 showed that delayed injury reporting can increase claim costs up to 51 percent. The study showed that costs for workplace injuries for claims reported within one week were the lowest, and were higher for incidents reported one week or longer after an incident. Costs may balloon a few weeks after an incident because the small cut a worker got on his or her arm became infected, requiring surgery and antibiotics, or the pain in the knee that resulted when an employee stepped off a platform has developed into tendon or ligament damage. Workers may wait to report what seem to be minor sprains, strains or other injuries in the hope they will heal on their own. Encouraging employees to report these injuries to their supervisor as soon as possible can help these incidents from developing into costlier claims that could, for example, require surgery instead of physical therapy.
Early reporting of a workplace incident allows employees to better investigate by collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses soon after it happens. It also benefits the injured worker. Employers can help those individuals better understand the claims process, such as how they access medical care and, in more serious cases, time-loss (temporary disability) payments. Moreover, this approach pays dividends because employers are easing a worker’s concerns and employers are letting their employees know that someone cares about them. This translates into more content employees and helps with workplace morale. Late reporting of claims can not only affect an injured employee’s financial security, but it can also cause unnecessary anxiety and uncertainty.
It’s ideal to report an injury within 24-48 hours after a workplace incident in order to keep claim costs down. While early reporting is best to manage claim costs, NCCI and safety experts say that employers should work to avoid being punitive. Harsh accident reporting policies may have the opposite effect if employees feel they could face negative consequences for missing a reporting deadline. It is vital that employers take the time to discuss early reporting with workers, and look at ways to reduce lag time for incident reports that occur weeks after an accident.
The Caputo Group makes the claims reporting process as simple as possible for our clients. We encourage our clients to report claims in a timely manner. This has a two-fold benefit: it allows the employee to enter care and treatment quickly, which can lead to a faster return to work, and it improves the bottom line for our clients.
Martin is a native of Fallon, Nev. He has been the claims manager for The Caputo Group since 2013.