I had an explosive introduction to the world of workers’ compensation. Literally. While on the job, one of my family members suffered a severe leg injury when a pneumatic tank exploded. Shrapnel tore open their right leg, causing permanent nerve damage and a gaping wound that required reconstructive surgery.
This incident should have immediately set off alarm bells with the employer risk management department and the workers’ comp program third-party administrator (TPA). However, in the accident report, the supervisor noted the injury simply as a “cut leg.” Due to this vague description of the injury there was nothing to trigger a sense of urgency. I had to jump in and act as the “case manager” during my family member’s hospital stay — even though I had no experience dealing with a workplace injury nor workers’ comp background at the time.
As a result, I learned several valuable lessons from this challenging experience. First and foremost, the choice of words used in an accident report really matters. In the case of my family member, an accurate and complete description of the injury would have triggered quick intervention by the risk management/workers’ comp department and TPA (although they did eventually get involved once they had all the facts).
Other lessons learned through my “on-the-job training” include promptly informing the employee’s risk management department about details of the injury; seeking assistance from a hospital’s on-site case manager; asking for a copy of the accident report (for the injured worker to validate); and staying in touch with the workers’ comp adjuster throughout the life of the claim.