With an average workers comp claim reaching $41,000 and an industry total of $100.2 billion, it’s safe to say workers’ compensation is an important lesson to learn, whether a company pays a high price, or can find ways to minimize serious incidents from happening.
If you work in HR, it’s important to stay on top of how your coworkers and colleagues are working together and how to work through the system to make sure everyone is happy and comes out satisfied.
But what if an on-site accident happens? We’ve written about steps HR departments should take in the past. But for this article, we’re going to talk about five additional facts that all HR employees should understand before an incident happens.
1. It is 100% the employee’s right to seek compensation following an incident.
As soon as an incident report is filed, that is the moment when the employee is eligible to seek compensation for their injuries. Employers in every state in the US are required by law to carry up-to-date worker’s compensation insurance and should expect this as a very likely probability if the employee is deemed unfit to work after the incident.
It’s critical to put yourself in the injured employee’s shoes, especially since injured employees may come across websites like this, which explain they may be entitled to workers compensation beyond what the company offers.
You want to come to an agreement that keeps the company’s integrity and the fairness of how the injured employee must be treated.
Despite this, not every insurance plan is created equal, and you may have to look into your company’s insurance plan in order to accurately answer any questions the employee may have about what they’re entitled to in their case.
Read over this list of workers’ compensation laws across the country for a different perspective.
2. Workers can still file a personal injury claim in addition to receiving workers’ compensation.
If an employer can be found at fault for the employee’s accident, such as asking them to do a job they were clearly unable to do prior to being injured on company time, the employee may want to take further action against the company. This is regardless of whether they are receiving workers’ compensation.
If you work in human resources, it’s important to anticipate this turn of events. It is not wise to intimidate or bribe the employee otherwise, as this may come up as legal evidence against the company in an eventual lawsuit.
3. Workers’ comp can cover long-term injuries.
Long-term injuries from the job may include factory positions that may cause an inordinate amount of particles to be inhaled through the lungs or stresses on the muscular or skeletal system that wouldn’t otherwise be found in positions with other companies.
For example, certain mining and factory jobs can include black lung and other breathing-related maladies to crop up over time, and sitting jobs like working at a call center at a bank can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. If the employer is a chemical processing plant, the employee could eventually develop respiratory diseases or even certain cancers.
Workers’ compensation can go on for a long time and keeping the employee compensated for their conditions is critical to the reputation of the company.
Any responsible HR department should have already considered workplace risk assessments, as one of our previous stories detailed.
4. The employee is protected from retaliation from the employer.
The law in every state expressly forbids employers from retaliating against their employees if they file a workers’ compensation claim.
There is zero tolerance for employers who go after their employees just for compensation claims, and legal action can and most likely will be sought by the employee.
Company owners, and especially supervisors or managers, should never attempt to bring down the hammer on the employee. It’s not their fight; it’s a situation involving the company and the injured worker.
5. Workers’ compensation fraud?
Unfortunately, not everyone is a saint when it comes to the corporate working world, at both ends of the table. Employers may be unscrupulous but employees can be tricky, too. Here is a discussion of what employers look for when determining workers’ compensation fraud.
Employees have been known to stage an accident to get compensation for a non-work-related injury, and other times they might exaggerate or embellish a story to make sure they get an inflated return on their claim.
Workers’ compensation fraud is a very serious issue, and if one is found guilty, they could face jail time or be fined upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The penalties are severe enough that it’s best to advise your employees to stay honest and to keep in mind the repercussions for being untruthful.
Plan Ahead and Suffer Less
Nobody likes to see people get hurt, especially coworkers they see every day. But HR supervisors and managers usually get in trouble by either ignoring the safety standards of the industry they’re in or by overreaching in their rights and responsibilities.
Now is a good time to review what supervisors and HR professionals are legally required to do for a company, its owners, and its employees.
Unfortunately, accidents do happen. But keeping a cool head on the situation, and making sure that both employee and employer are minding their P’s and Q’s, are crucial to making sure any workers’ compensation claim process goes smoothly and efficiently for all parties involved.