Last week I wrote about a personal experience I had with a server who had recently had an on the job injury at a restaurant I frequent. She had injured her knee, and was off the job for a number of weeks. The story centered on her description of “the workers' comp people” as being “worthless” and “terrible”. I described how she had been informed by the claims adjuster that she would need to wait between 7 and 10 days before she would be allowed to see a physician; this despite emergency room instructions that she follow up with a specialist the Monday immediately following the accident.

She instead chose to receive her treatment via her group health insurance.

That story drew a lot of attention, including that of my friend and fellow blogger, president David Depaolo. I did not name the restaurant in my article for a number of reasons, the simplest of which is I don't necessarily like to broadcast where I can be found on a fairly consistent schedule. Still, David asked if I would disclose the name of the business, as he rightly felt that the type of claims handling I described was worthy of a public shaming. I had no objection, and frankly agreed with him. I shared the company name, Bob Evans Farms. He published his scathing piece on the story Friday.

I did not originally publish it, but I understand this specific restaurant had a second employee experience a similar injury within a week of the one we are discussing. He was also apparently given a 7 to 10 day wait for medical care. It sounds as though that may be a standard response in these cases, and frankly, that is an embarrassment for our industry. 

I will be the first to admit that our information on this story is one sided, and incomplete at best. There may be other factors at play of which we are ignorant. Still, I had other thoughts about this particular injury which I did not share in my original article. My overall impression from the outset, both as a customer and a comp professional, was that the entire handling of the claim was abysmal from day one.

Abysmal, but not unusual in the corporate world today. No, while the delay in medical treatment I wrote about was particularly egregious, some of the perceived mistakes made in this case are quite common with employers today. We can learn from the broader impressions of this claim.

When Carol (not her real name) was initially injured, there seemed to be little information available for the other employees. In the first few weeks, no one knew how she was doing.  As a concerned regular customer, it was but a minor annoyance. As a workers' comp professional, it was a sign that management and her co-workers were not actively engaged in communicating with her. They weren't checking on her welfare, or letting her know she was missed. I can tell you that this is a singularly huge mistake, and as a veteran of online discussions with injured workers, it is one of the biggest causes of disenfranchisement of this group. If you want to alienate your employee and drive them to the nearest waiting attorney, simply ignore them after the accident. Lack of communication, and the compassion it conveys, is job one for screwing up your claim.

I wrote in the original article that she told us she drove herself to the emergency room. It was a point I largely let pass in that edition, mostly because she made that statement matter of factly, and not in a complaining fashion; but it was another glaring clue as to how poorly this was handled by her employer. After all, nothing says “We care” like making someone with a fractured leg drive themselves to the hospital. 

She told us in our discussion upon her return that the claims adjustor indicated in that first call that she would need to pass a drug test as part of the workers' comp claim process. This is, of course, clue number three on the botched claim parade. This comment came at least two days after the accident, after she had already been loaded up with pain medication by the ER. If this claim had been properly handled by an engaged management staff, that drug test would have been conducted in the emergency room on the day of the accident. Easy peasy.

Again, I reiterate that this is a one sided story. I don't know all the specifics of how that accident occurred, and how it was managed. Still, just as accident investigators can piece together clues from the twisted wreckage and debris they survey, we can tell that there were big mistakes made with this case.

Huge mistakes, but hardly uncommon ones. I've written numerous times that employers are their own worst enemy, and there are multiple clues in this story that confirm that fact. Front line and unit supervisors must be trained to properly handle incidents where their employees are injured. An injured worker is a human being, and not simply an inconvenience in your busy day. The “3 C's” of claims management, communication, caring and compassion, should be taught to everyone as a core element of response to a workplace injury.

It is simple in theory, yet exceedingly difficult to implement in real world applications. And in the case of this Bob Evan's employee, it was an experience compounded by a terrible, unforgivable delay in medical care.

Let's hope the rest of us learn a lesson from it.


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