A Review of ‘Red Flags’ in Liberty Mutual’s Annual Study

02 Feb, 2017 Angela Underwood


(WorkersCompensation.com) - Overexertion and same-level falls remain the top two causes of U.S. employers' workers’ compensation payouts, according to an annual study by Liberty Mutual Insurance.

Supported by data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Academy of Social Insurance, The 2017 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index  grades serious, non-fatal work-related wounds at an annual cost of $59.9 billion. 

In the study, overexertion includes labor-related lifting, holding, pushing, pulling, and carrying or throwing objects. The overall price tag to U.S. employers is $13.79 billion and accounts for up to 23% of the overall national burden, according to the study, and "falls on same level ranked second with direct costs of $10.62 billion and accounted for 17.7% of the total injury burden."

Mark Pew, senior vice president of PRIUM, a medical intervention company out of Duluth, GA, said although overexertion remains the first injury-related item, the cause has actually declined from almost 27% in 2012 data results, to 23% in 2017 statistics. 

He said although that is good news, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration still reports up to 12 workers die daily on the job while "4.1 million workers suffer a job-related injury or illness annually."

Pew, who’s also known as the RXProfessor, said the ideal way to prevent injury is through prevention programs. He points out how same-level falls — that consistently rated number 2 on the Liberty Mutual Safety Index for the past four reports — can be prevented with reactive and proactive steps. For example, if an employee is injured due to a fall on a slippery surface, find the leak that caused the condensation, as well as replace floors with a non-slip surface.    

Mark Thompson, senior vice president of Insureon, said the best way to prevent workplace injuries is to have a safety program in place from day one. But if you do have to file a claim, document everything, he said. 

"Report injuries to your insurance carrier right away. And don't stop there," Thompson said in an email to WorkersCompensation.com. He advised that an employer should always assist the claimant with paperwork as well as follow their recovery. "Studies have shown that the top reason employees sue after an injury is that they feel as if they're not being heard or taken care of."

Wellness programs and "introduction to automation," will also help the $59.9 billion price tag drop, according to Pew. Though artificial intelligence machines may reduce the number of employees, it would "take away some of the more strenuous activities," that eventually result in annual workers’ compensation costs.

Thompson reported that Insureon recently surveyed 1,000 small businesses and "found that almost 11% had an employee injury in the last 12 months."

"You need to work diligently to prevent accidents and encourage safety, but in the end, some accidents will happen," he said.

According to Thompson, the numbers aren’t surprising and the cost isn't cheap. "The typical workers’ comp claim includes the cost of medical treatment, ongoing rehabilitation, and missed wages," he said.

Justin Parafinczuk, shareholder with Koch, Parafinczuk & Wolf, a litigation and workers’ compensation firm out of Ft. Lauderdale, FL said there is a direct correlation between compensation claims and America's finances.

"Typically, when the overall economy in the U.S. is suffering, we see much more personal injury and much more workers’ compensation claims," Parafinczuk said, adding little of the $59.9 billion annual cost is outright fraud. "The part that is much more prevalent is the issue of whether they are faking issues or [malingering], that is where we get into the biggest amount of litigation with workers’ comp."

He said he has witnessed some claimants go as far as having surgery to better their chances of a bigger payout. "If someone has a sore back for a couple of days, the claimant and attorney are going to try and make it something bigger," he said, noting there are databases to search if a claimant has previously filed a liability claim.

"That's always a red flag," Parafinczuk said.


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    • Angela Underwood

      Author Angela Underwood has worked as a reporter, feature writer and editor for more than a decade. Her prior roles as Municipal Beat Correspondent with Gannett and Public Information Officer for Toms Rivers government in New Jersey have given her experience on both sides of the political and media fences, making her passionate about policy and the public’s right-to-know.

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