It is often said that words mean things. I’ve actually written that here on the digital pages of my blog, so it must be true. Clear, concise, communication can help overcome hurdles when dealing with challenging issues. Yet, in workers’ compensation, an industry that certainly sees its fair share of hurdles, the art of simple communication is often lost in a sea of acronyms and legalese. Simply put, you don’t need to use a big word when a singularly unloquacious and diminutive linguistic expression can just as succinctly convey the intent of your utterance.
Like we said in the title of this article, use simple language when dealing with injured workers.
We recently held a Hot Seat webinar discussing “simple concepts” for workers’ compensation. It was inspired by Bill Zachry’s ongoing “Simple Concepts” articles that have been appearing in our Experts’ View column. One of our guests was Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Beth Harkins. Harkins is a Physical Therapist by trade and was discussing some of the challenges she faced when appointed as a commissioner. When initially questioned as a non-attorney as to how she could understand the workers’ compensation laws of the state, she offered a response that was eloquently simple yet cut to the bone. She said, “I can read.”
Talk about clear and concise communication. I thought that summed things up quite nicely. Of course, I pointed out that I can also read, but I often have to read a statute 5 or 6 (or 18) times to figure out what it actually says. And I are college edumacated.
For people foreign to the ways of workers’ compensation, our industry can be a mind-boggling experience. Not every injured worker possesses strong reading skills. Not every injured worker has a college education. And even for those who are highly educated, our language and processes are still foreign. We might as well be speaking Russian to most people when we delve into the technical aspects of our industry. Except a few injured workers out there can probably understand Russian.
We have previously written about the “warm and fuzzy letter” created by Maxcis, a TPA in Michigan. It was intentionally crafted to offer plain and understandable instructions to a newly injured worker. Compare that to the dry statutory verbiage offered in letters sent by some other TPAs and carriers and you will quickly see the stark difference in potential comprehension by the recipients. It has been pointed out that some jurisdictions require that specific technical language in those letters. That shouldn’t preclude additional communication in an understandable form. And shame on regulators who dictate those requirements without considering the audience for whom they are intended.
Words matter. And simple words rule. Remember that when speaking to injured workers’ trying to understand the world they now find themselves in. Deploying incomplex intelligible verbiage decrees affirmative outcomes.
Now, vivaciously proceed to savor a wonderous tarriance.