On Their Own: Self-Represented Injured Workers

NOTE: This is a guest article written by James “Jay” Hicks, an ombudsman attorney with the Tennessee Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Abbie Hudgens requested he leverage his expertise on the complicated subject of self-represented injured workers to share insights on the process, trends, and best practices. Imagine that you got hurt on the job. You are unable to work because of the pain in your lower back. Now your benefits…

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Second Injury Fund – Opportunities

Some might say “second injury funds (SIFs)” are dinosaurs. However, structured effectively SIFs can enrich a state’s efforts to maximize their workforce. They have been a crucial element in states’ workers’ compensation for over a century. As early as 1916 states established programs to encourage employers to hire employees who had permanent disabilities by limiting the employer’s risk to costs related to subsequent injuries compensable under that state’s workers’ compensation…

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It’s COMPlicated – Utility of Utilization Review 

The use of utilization review (UR) in workers’ comp has defenders and critics. Some consider UR (insurance companies and third-party administrators, et al) to  be a basic tool to prevent unnecessary medical services and reduce costs. Others (physicians and plaintiff attorneys, et al) consider utilization review to be a cause of unnecessary delays in medical care that can result in poorer outcomes and frustration for physicians and injured workers. Finding…

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It’s COMPlicated – Is the Bargain Still Grand?

Everyone agrees that workers' compensation is too complicated. But one aspect of it rises above others on the complicated scale – permanent partial disability benefits. The difficulty of finding the right balance for permanent partial disability benefits is at the heart of the differences among approaches, and it started with the grand bargain itself. The grand bargain means that benefits for workers' compensation claims aren't determined like claims based on…

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It’s COMPlicated – It’s Also Relative

Have you ever thought about whether you could live on your state's temporary total disability (TTD) benefits if you had a workers' compensation injury? It's a scary thought. The benefits in most states have formulas that begin with an injured worker's average weekly wage based on the prior 52 weeks' wages and multiply it by 66 2/3%. Then the resulting amount cannot exceed the maximum weekly wage for TTD benefits…

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It’s COMPlicated – Little Things Mean a Lot

A 2021 Harvard Business School newsletter encouraged business leaders to take the long -term view rather than concentrating on quick returns. This is sound advice for several aspects of the medical component of workers' compensation, three of which are discussed below. First. Medical care is a major component of the total cost of workers' compensation. Policymakers have accepted that medical fee schedules help reduce medical costs in workers' compensation and…

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It’s COMPlicated – The Importance of Choices

Comments from last week illustrated the substantial difference that the choices about physicians can make in workers' compensation. This point was also made in a presentation at the recent IAIABC Forum. Dr. James Talmage, a well-known authority on medical care for workers' compensation injuries, spoke about “Working with Physicians to Achieve Return to Work.” His talk included some of the complexities of medical care that plague workers' compensation. He also…

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It’s Still COMPlicated (Post 2)

The first edition of the It's Complicated blog began an exchange of ideas about what workers' compensation is and what it could be. The dialogue started with four questions. The responses to the questions were thought-provoking and raised even more questions. The responses are summarized below. The Definition of “Injury” The first question was basic ? what is a workers' compensation injury? ? and it had four possible answers. The…

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No Stone Tablets in Workers’ Compensation

A day rarely goes by when emails, social media, blogs, and news articles don't discuss workers' compensation – what's wrong with it, or what can “fix” some part of it. But there is no universal agreement on what “it” should be. Equally troubling, no consistent platform has existed from which the workers' compensation community can have a dialogue about issues the industry faces. The purpose of this blog is to…

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