I would be the last person to describe one of my presentations as “art”, but, always one to be looking for a catchy title, I thought “Why Injured Workers Hire Attorneys and Life Imitating My Presentation” was a less than stellar opening. But, that is sort of what happened to me last week.

This past Friday I had the pleasure of speaking to the Nevada Self Insurance Association in Las Vegas, NV. The topic they asked me to speak on was “Why Do Injured Workers Hire Attorneys?” It is a favorite topic of mine. The truth is, we spend a great deal of time complaining about attorneys in workers’ comp, but sometimes we have no one to blame for their presence but ourselves. While it is true that some “frequent flyers” know the system well and have their attorney on speed dial, and sometimes an injured worker may have an attorney before their employer knows there was an injury, in many cases attorneys get involved during a claim simply because, 1) our actions (or inactions) have necessitated it, or 2) they simply are lost, confused, scared and looking for help.

That last point was the primary thrust of my presentation on Friday. The basic theme of my talk was “Communication,” or rather, the lack of it. One of the primary problems with our system today is that we are oriented toward “process and close,” with very little focus on “educate and explain.” The lack of open communication in workers’ comp both hampers outcomes and costs us financially. This lack of interaction between the injured worker and the TPA, the TPA and the employer, and perhaps most importantly, the employer and the injured worker, is a major stumbling block to successful outcomes and a primary driver of attorney retention and litigation. I reminded the group that, “In the absence of good and open information, cancerous thoughts and negative actions will grow.”

After my presentation, my host for the event took me out to lunch at a nearby Mexican restaurant. My lunch mate excused herself to the restroom as we were seated in a booth. For a few minutes I was left alone, and the conversation of those in the next booth caught my ear. The first statement that grabbed my attention was a woman saying, “our client just got a letter telling them that they wanted to send them for an IME.” She continued by saying, “they were upset because they didn’t know anything about it. Our clients are always calling and yelling at us because no one ever tells them what is going on.” As the conversation shifted to their “all hands on deck” legal strategy, it was pretty obvious I was listening to a group from a law firm that represents injured workers.

And the irony was delicious. I had just come from a meeting of employers telling them why their employees hire attorneys, and I was now listening to those attorneys confirm what I had just said. My lunch mate returned, and stopped to speak to the table next to me. It turns out she knew them, and confirmed for me that they were indeed from a local personal injury law firm. 

I love it when I am right. Doesn’t happen that often.

One of the points I had made earlier during my presentation was that attorneys also, at times, do a poor job of educating and explaining the process to their clients. The statements I overheard bolster that argument.

I also took the opportunity that day to discuss my Workers’ Recovery concept. For those uninitiated to the idea, I believe that Workers’ Compensation needs to be rebranded and renamed, and that “Workers’ Recovery” would project a much clearer goal for both the injured worker and the professionals helping them towards that objective. Adopting a recovery mindset would help us improve both communication and empathy to the injured workers’ plight.

If we did it right, those attorneys would not have to discuss the ignorance of their clients. In fact, they might not have the clients in the first place.  


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