Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Benefit Notices Out of Control

I got an article the other day authored by Bill Zachry, head of risk management for a large grocery chain.

He argued that work comp benefit notices in all states have gotten out of control - too complex, too many pages, too much legal mumbo jumbo. He theorized that these notices, intended to inform the injured worker as to the status of their claim, actually perpetuated litigation.

I agree. Here's my little anecdote based on my wife's experience.

My wife works for a large telecommunication company and has for the last 35 years (what a trooper!). She reported last year some pain from her work station, so appropriately the company provided WC benefits - med only and she continued working. 

The volume of paperwork that followed was astounding - we're talking a med only claim of maybe 5 PT sessions and no lost time! The stack of papers that arrived in our mail one day was nearly an inch thick.

Worse - the language and fonts used in the notices surely would drive someone to an attorney. "RIGHTS?! I might lose RIGHTS?!" These forms were downright scary in their layout and tenor.

But they were simply the state regulated/mandated forms that all injured workers get in a claim - and the claims administrator, which fears penalties for not sending enough information, does the overkill on the forms.

My wife was truly anxious about the forms and if I wasn't a work comp attorney that could explain what the forms meant and how these notices affected her claim she would have seen an attorney. Since claimant (applicant) attorneys in California are paid on a contingency basis, the incentive is then to open a litigated claim and certainly this is where this med-only, no lost time  claim would have headed.

There must be a simpler way to tell people that certain things must be done in a certain time frame without scaring them into a lawyer's office.

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