There are two billboards along Interstate 476, just south of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Both reside high on a hilltop, and are positioned on opposite sides of the highway with strong visibility for oncoming traffic. Based on a deep blue background, they contain two prominent lines. The first, a bright white pronouncement, says “Work Injuries Hurt.” The second line, in a softer, pale blue, says “Entire Families.”

Clearly the billboards offer two distinct messages. “Work injuries hurt”, and, of course, “Work injuries hurt entire families.”

The billboards promote the services of a workers’ compensation law firm. I was surprised, as I sped past these boards over the weekend, that I actually recognized the name of the firm. I don’t know why. Perhaps I’ve seen them at conferences or their members subscribe to our newsletter. Either way, it probably means that I have been doing this for too long.

I saw the first board the day after I had completed a session at the 69th Annual Convention of the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA), in Pinehurst, NC. That conference spent a significant amount of energy devoted to ideas that would improve communications within the workers’ compensation industry, and that included engendering better empathy for injured workers and the situations they face. Our process driven industry often fails to recognize the thoughts and emotions of the injured worker it serves. We also often fail to take in to account the impact on the entire family of that worker.

I had traveled north after the SAWCA Conference to attend a family gathering in New Albany, PA (don’t bother trying to find it on a map). My wife and I flew into Philadelphia and made the three-hour trek north for the weekend. That is when I saw the first billboard. I saw the second one on the return trip to Philly Monday. I thought it was ironic given the dialogue that had taken place in Pinehurst.

There was no doubt in my mind those billboards represent a fact often overlooked within our industry. Work injuries hurt more than the injured worker. Often an entire family suffers from a catastrophic event. It is a good thing for all of us to keep in mind as we manage the labyrinth known as workers’ compensation. 

And we shouldn’t need attorneys (or their billboards) to remind us of that fact.

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