Workers’ Compensation Insurance
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What to do when your employee is injured at work

When one of your employees is injured, it’s important to act fast to treat the injury and file a workers’ compensation claim.

Follow OSHA’s recommendations for workplace safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets the standards that employers are expected to follow to ensure workplace safety. However, employers should also know what to do if these protections fail and an employee suffers a work-related injury.

Many employers have written documents that outline the workers’ comp process and return to work policies for their business, from which they are able to effectively explain their workers’ compensation benefits to new employees. This is a good way to build trust with your staff, as it helps make the process of filing a claim easier, and it may reduce the risk of a lawsuit.

The more prepared your business is for workplace accidents, the less likely it is that a work injury will prove overly costly. There are five steps that can help you plan ahead.

1. Start with workers' compensation coverage and risk mitigation

It's important to consider how to prevent workplace injuries before they occur and the steps you can take to reduce risks for your employees and your business.

Workers' compensation insurance, which is required by workers’ compensation laws in most states, is something that most business owners obtain before they hire their first employee. Without it, you could be held personally liable in court for an employee injury, and you might be forced to pay for employee medical expenses and wage replacements out of pocket.

Of course, the best approach is to avoid an accident in the first place. That means regular safety training for all employees, regardless how long they’ve been with the company, and drafting a risk mitigation plan.

Employees might get so comfortable with a process or a machine that they become overconfident and start skipping the safety procedures. Emphasize to your employees that training and safety protocols are in their best interest and that you’re trying to keep them safe by reducing workplace accidents and the chance of personal injury.

Your risk mitigation plan may include:

  • Creating response plans for various accident types
  • Training employees and supervisors on safety and emergency response plans
  • Keeping first-aid supplies stocked and easily accessible
  • Maintaining emergency contacts on file for all employees
  • Assigning a safety officer for particularly dangerous jobs

2. Draft a response plan

A quick response can reduce the severity of a workplace injury, as well as the costs associated with it. Having a response plan in place that spells out your accident policies and procedures gives your employees a roadmap to follow and allows for a faster response.

Your accident response plan may include:

  • Medical treatment consent forms and claim forms
  • An explanation of medical benefits and vocational rehabilitation
  • A list of health care providers that accept your workers’ comp coverage
  • A return-to-work release form that is completed by a physician
  • The employee's job description
  • Your company's light duty policies

A light duty policy explains your plan for dealing with a workplace injury that limits an employee's ability to do their job. Employers should do their best to accommodate injured workers with light duty work while they are recovering.

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3. Respond immediately after injury

At the first report of injury or an accident, business owners should follow these steps:

  • Get workers to a safe place. Move any injured workers away from a potentially dangerous area and make sure other employees stay clear.
  • Assess the situation. How severe is the injury? What caused the accident? Evaluate carefully to ensure no one else gets hurt.
  • Assist the injured. For minor cuts, scrapes, and burns, first aid might be all that's required. However, for major injuries be sure to stabilize the affected person and the injured part of their body. The employee might not be aware of the severity of an injury. Professional medical care will minimize risk of further injury, and emergency medical services should always be called if a workplace injury requires treatment beyond basic first aid.
  • Gather information and keep evidence. While the incident is still fresh in your mind, write down the relevant details and gather witness testimony. Keep evidence of the accident, such as equipment, pictures of the scene, etc. Injuries should be documented even if employees say they are fine, as they may seek medical treatment at a later time. This will also be important if a workers' compensation insurance claim is filed.

In the minutes following an injury, the difference between preparedness and panic can have a significant impact on what happens next. Keeping a cool head after a worker is injured on the job can help minimize the severity of injury for the employee, as well as protect the business owner from additional liability.

4. File a workers’ compensation claim

If an employee is injured at work, the employer should work with the employee to file a workers' comp claim with the company’s insurance company.

It’s in your best interest to maintain open communications between the injured employee, the medical provider, the claims adjuster, and the insurance carrier. This can speed up the claims process and make sure your employees receive the funds they need to pay for treatment.

It might be tempting to pay a medical bill out of your own pocket, especially if it’s a small amount, but it’s always better to file a claim. What might seem like a minor injury could easily turn out to be something more serious and expensive.

An employee might think they’re perfectly fine after an accident or a work-related illness, only to find out a day or a week later the problem was more serious than they thought.

5. Know what to do when an injury becomes a lawsuit

If an injured employee sues, the employer should still try to keep the lines of communication open. The longer a litigated claim lasts, the more expensive it tends to become. Employers should share all relevant information with attorneys and claims adjusters, including any documentation. Settling a claim early can prevent a much costlier, drawn-out lawsuit.

The employer's liability coverage that is included in most workers' comp policies can help pay your legal fees and other costs.

Ideally, a workers’ comp claim can be settled without litigation. And by following some basic safety precautions, business owners should be able to avoid the need to file a workers’ comp claim in the first place.

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