By Lisa Lane, Esq.
Over the Christmas holiday, I did something I have not done since high school. I took a two week vacation at work, justified in my mind by the fact that I was only missing 6 business days. It was great. I made a fool of myself trying to paddle board, soaked up the sun, and took a break from the craziness of the world of workers’ compensation. Don’t worry, though, my real work of CML stayed with me and as I spent countless hours on Pinterest looking for ideas for our party during the Bureau seminar in June.
In any event, as many who know me (or work with me) will attest, I am not exactly programmed for relaxation. It took me about 9 ½ days to stop staring at my phone, looking for an email to respond to or a phone call to return. But then something very strange happened. Even I, who my parents made sure had a pretty good work ethic, started dreading my return to work. And let’s face it, my job is more fun than a number of jobs that I have seen over the years. I am not working at a car wash, drying cars in freezing weather. I am either sitting at my desk, driving to a mediation or deposition or attending a hearing. Not all that physically taxing.
The emotion was a surprise to me and for the first time in my life, I found myself understanding how claimants feel when the light duty job offer arrives after being off work for a period of time. If I had not always been a proponent of early return to work, this epiphany that even I could be hesitant to return after a period of “freedom,” sealed the deal for me.
There are a number of reasons to return claimants to work quickly. The following are the TOP 5 REASONS TO OFFER LIGHT DUTY AND RETURN CLAIMANTS TO WORK:
5. A good light duty program is the easiest way to reduce financial exposure. Since Pennsylvania is a wage loss state, no wage loss means the claim is a Medical Only. Medical Only claims are generally far easier to manage and far less expensive than wage loss claims.
4. A claimant’s refusal to an offer of light duty work can have a very negative impact on that claimant’s credibility with a judge. Since credibility wins cases, a claimant with a credibility problem is a much easier opponent in litigation.
3. Workers’ Compensation Judges are often persuaded that the claim is exaggerated when the Employer has a well-established policy of accommodating injured workers an claimant refuses efforts to return him or her to work.
2. Claimants who are at work have less time to doctor shop.
1. Knowledge among the workforce that the Employer has a strong light duty program generally reduces the likelihood of false claims. The fact that the employer will accommodate any work restrictions provides a disincentive for fraudulent claim, as a claim of a work injury is not viewed as a paid vacation.
So, Employers out there ---- PLEASE consider implementing a LIGHT DUTY PROGRAM and start REDUCING YOUR WORKERS: COMPENSATION COSTS.
P.S. If the reasons above are not strong enough for you, take off an afternoon and watch daytime television.
Keep a tally of the number of commercials for attorneys suggesting workers’ compensation settlements you see in the course of the average afternoon. I think you will quickly see that your employees are far better off at work than home watching talk shows!