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Workers Compensation Insurance  <<continued from previous page



Experience rating is more sensitive to the number of claims (loss frequency) than the dollar value of claims (loss severity). This is because of the insurance industry maxim, “frequency breeds severity.” Insurers know from experience that where more accidents occur, there is a greater likelihood of big losses. A greater number of accidents indicates that overall in working conditions are not as safe as an environment where fewer accidents occur, even if in a given year the few accidents that occurred were more costly.


WHAT ARE MY COSTS FOR WORKERS COMP?

Your costs include insurance premiums, payments made under deductibles and the administrative costs of handling claims and making reports to the state and your insurer.


UNDERSTANDING YOUR WORKERS COMP POLICY

Usually a workers comp policy has two parts: "Part One, Workers Compensation" and "Part Two, Employers’ Liability."

Under "Part One", the insurer contracts to pay whatever the state-required amounts of compensation may be. Unlike other types of insurance, workers comp coverage has no ceiling or limit on the policy amount. The insurance company accepts a transfer of the employer’s entire statutory obligation—whatever the employer is legally obligated to pay as a result of the injury.

"Part Two" of the policy provides coverage for an employer who is sued by an employee for work-related bodily injury or illness that isn’t subject to state statutory benefits. It has a monetary limit.

Employers' liability also insures an employer in some other situations. One is so-called “third-party over suits,” where an injured worker files suit against someone other than the employer (a third party) and that third party then seeks to hold the employer responsible. For example, an employee injured while working with a machine might file suit against the manufacturer of the machine. The manufacturer might then sue the employer claiming that the cause of the injury was modifications the employer made to the machine or improper use. Another situation where this liability coverage applies is when the spouse of an injured worker sues the employer for loss of consortium.


YOUR OBLIGATIONS

In most states you are required to keep records of accidents. You must report work-related accidents to the state workers compensation board and to your insurer within a specified number of days.

Studies suggest that the faster the insurer receives notice of an injury and can initiate medical treatment and benefits, the faster the injured worker recuperates and returns to work. To help get medical treatment to the injured worker faster, some insurers help employers file promptly a "first notice of injury" with the state agency responsible for overseeing the workers compensation system, a step which can trigger the claim process.


THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING AN INJURED WORKER BACK TO WORK

Long absences from work can have a lasting negative impact on workers’ future employment opportunities and thus on their economic well being. A study of injured workers in Wisconsin by the Workers Compensation Research Institute found that the duration of time off from work and periods of subsequent unemployment are lower for injured workers who return to their pre-injury employer than for those who change employers.

Effective communication by employers is critical to facilitate the injured worker’s return to work. You should explain to workers how the workers compensation system works and that they are required to report an accident immediately and get medical attention promptly.

Your expectations relative to work-related injuries or accidents should be part of the employee handbook (if there is one), conveyed to new employees as part of orientation, posted on bulletin boards and communicated periodically in safety reviews.

Communicate regularly with employees who are off work due to a work-related injury. Workers who know they are thought about, missed and still part of the workplace team are generally more eager to return. Some insurers will keep employers informed about how the employee’s treatment is progressing.

Another aspect of the return-to-work process is successful reintegration into the workplace. Workers comp insurers help you assess the injured worker's needs and capabilities and encourage you to let workers know, in advance of any injury, that you will try to modify work activities to accommodate those who are disabled.


ARE MY EMPLOYEES COVERED WHEN THEY WORK OR TRAVEL IN OTHER STATES?

Your workers comp policy covers claims made only in the states named in the policy "Declarations." If an employee is injured while working in another state, and that state has benefits more generous than the state(s) named in your policy, the employee could file a workers comp claim in the other state and it would not be covered by your policy.

The solution is in the "Other States" section of the policy, which allows you to list states where employees might work from time to time so there will be coverage for claims filed in those states.

The "Other States" portion of the policy cannot be used to cover claims in states where coverage must be obtained from the state workers compensation fund.

"Other States" coverage is intended to provide protection only for incidental exposures in states where the employer does not operate as of the effective date of the policy. If you set up an operating entity in another state, notify your insurer, as this state should be added to the "Declarations" page of the policy.


FACTORS THAT AFFECT YOUR PREMIUMS

Premiums for workers comp vary among the states. In states where benefits are more generous, premiums for workers comp insurance may be correspondingly greater. In most states, workers comp benefits continue even after the worker begins to collect Social Security and Medicare.

However, benefits are only one part of the equation. In some states with low benefits and costs, premiums may be high due to the inefficiency of the system for awarding benefits. The generally increasing cost of medical care impacts premiums as well. Although states are working to make changes, for the most part, workers comp doesn’t have the types of cost control measures that have been applied to health insurance. Workers comp claimants do not have to pay deductibles. In many states they may visit as many doctors and specialists as they like. There is generally no requirement for doctors to prescribe generic rather than brand name drugs.


ASSIGNED RISK PLANS OR POOLS

An assigned risk plan or pool is a means of providing insurance for businesses that may not be able to get workers comp insurance in the private market. High-risk businesses, businesses with a history of many claims and businesses in new industries without a previous industry claims history are the most likely to get insurance through the assigned risk plan.

Typically, the employer or the agent applies to the plan. The application is then assigned to an insurance company that the state has designated to write the policy. Premiums in assigned risk pools often carry a surcharge over the regular premium rate.


WHAT IS A SECOND INJURY FUND?

About half the states have second injury funds to encourage the hiring of workers who are partly disabled but still able to work. Employers would be reluctant to hire such workers due to the risk they could sustain an injury that would combine with the prior injury or condition to cause a disability. Without second injury funds, the new employer would be liable for the entire cost of the claim. When a partially disabled employee suffers a second injury, part of the cost of the second injury is apportioned to the second injury fund.


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