Work First Pro Tips #8: Financial Impact of Claims by Providing Return To Work Options

How to Provide a Better Outcome for Your Injured Worker and Save $1 Million Doing It

Work First believes in the restorative power of work.  We strive to return every single injured worker to a job that is as close as possible to his or her pre-injury work. Some injuries are more serious than others, which make it more challenging to return some to work.  Despite the challenge, the outcome is always better for both the employee and the company when work is provided.

True Story

A 23-year-old man was working on a machine when his glove got caught and pulled his entire arm into the machine. He was immediately taken to the emergency room for treatment of the severe injury to his arm. Unfortunately, the hospital determined that an amputation below the elbow was necessary.

In cases like these, it is crucial to stay close to the injured worker. The last thing you want is to find the employee sitting at home on the couch and sinking into a deep depression because of the seriousness of the injury. Clinical depression, as a result of the injury, is a very real danger with obvious negative implications for both the employee’s well being and the overall cost of the claim.

The absolute best method for avoiding isolation and the potential for depression is to return the employee to a light duty job as soon as the doctor releases the employee for work.  Early releases by the doctor will list the restrictions that must be accommodated for the worker to safely return to the job.  The more serious the injury, the more extensive the restrictions will be.  This can make it harder to find a suitable position, but also more critical to a positive outcome.

Since this man no longer had one of his arms, many employers did not find him to be suitable for the employment opportunities they had available.  The Work First claims team was able to find the man a job with a nonprofit organization that could accommodate his injury.

He was employed at that non-profit for two years.  Over the course of the two years, the non-profit commented on multiple occasions that they very much enjoyed this worker, and the employee loved doing the work.  He stayed at the non-profit until the point where he reached what is considered “maximum medical improvement.”

At this point in the life of a claim, the parties move to settle what is called the ‘permanancy’ component of the claim.  That is, this employee has recovered as much as possible from his injury, and he is not back to 100% of his pre-injury condition.  Workers’ compensation regulations provide for payment to compensate the employee for his reduced capacity.  Since this employee was placed, and thrived, in his light duty assignment, it was established that despite the loss of an arm he had the capacity to work.  This was important in the calculation of the permanency award.

In a case like this, it would be normal for the injured worker to seek “permanent, total disability,” which means that he would not be able to work for the remainder of his life.  In this particular claim, the cost would have been $1.35 million if he was determined to be permanently and totally disabled.  Since this employee had shown that he is capable of working, he was instead eligible for an award of $250,000.

The difference here is striking – both from a monetary, but more importantly from a human perspective.  Instead of this person idling away the rest of his life feeling as though he cannot contribute to society, he continued to be a productive citizen.  The importance of this point cannot be overstated.  This outcome is better for the worker, society, and it saved $1.1 million.

Pro Tip

An effective and functioning return to work program is absolutely critical. It is not always easy to find a light duty job for your injured workers – especially for those seriously injured.  But, the more severe the injury, the more important early return to work becomes.

You want the best for your employees and for your pocketbook.   These two objectives don’t always align, but in the case of an early return to work program, there is perfect alignment.

Coordinating with the doctor to secure a release to work and having pre-defined jobs available are both important components of your program.  In the best programs, not even a day passes between receiving the doctor’s release and the employee beginning work.

Your workers’ compensation insurance company should be able to assist with building an effective return to work program.  They should also assist in securing a light duty job when you do not have a position available that meets the injured worker’s restrictions.  If your insurance company isn’t partnering with you on these things, it might be time to look for one that does.

Let Us Work for You!

Work First Casualty Company is proud to announce that we’ve expanded our borders! We are prepared to begin serving in North Carolina with the same high-quality service that you come to expect from us on February 1, 2016. Discover what a Work First Casualty Company policy can do for you by contacting Bruce Winterrowd, Vice President of Underwriting and Marketing at (630) 416-7594 or by email at

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