Why Workers' Comp File Reviews Can Be a Waste of Time

Unless you do some serious prep work, you might as well not bother.

I’ve spent a substantial amount of my insurance career reviewing workers' comp claim files in my capacity as a claim supervisor, a manager and a consultant for a large insurance broker. Those years allowed me to come to the following conclusion: Unless the employer is prepared, it's wasting its time sitting through a workers' comp file review. I know…pretty simple, right? While it seems like common sense, you’d be surprised how many employers don’t do their prep work. Many times, I’ve seen an employer sitting in the meeting nodding approvingly while the examiner provides a lackluster or imprecise update. The employers -- neither being experts nor adequately prepared -- don’t know the difference. And because they allowed themselves to be bamboozled, the file reviews are basically for naught. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying file reviews are total rubbish. The mere fact that you requested the file review shows you are somewhat interested and will most certainly motivate the examiners to update files. But a file review will only scratch the surface. You might as well call the file review, “Tell-me-what- you-want-me-to-know-in-three-minutes-or-less.” I always advocate for an actual file audit on occasion to supplement your quarterly file reviews on all high value/high exposure cases. When it comes to a file audit, there’s no place to hide. Stone after stone will be unturned so no doubt remains as to whether the file was handled right by the examiner. You see, oftentimes what the examiner tells you -- and what the file ultimately reveals -- are totally different scenarios. The audit isn’t a way to catch the examiner slacking but rather to find out if your money is well-spent on that particular examiner or, more importantly, on that third-party administrator or insurance carrier.  Basically, an audit answers the nagging question: Am I getting the bang for my buck? Back to file reviews: So what constitutes prep work? This is pretty straightforward. It all boils down to how much you know about the injured worker's current situation. Do you know his diagnosis and the effectiveness of the treatment regime? The treating physician? The return-to-work situation? Claimant attorney? Employee’s work history? Personnel history? Medical history? Did the examiner establish a plan of action and stick to it? Did he share that plan with you prior to the claim review? Most importantly, did the examiner continually move forward in regard to file management and expedition to closure? Some employers would say, “Why would I need to know all that when the file review will tell me everything I need to know?” If that’s the case, I’d suggest you go back and read the first paragraph. An employer can’t be an active participant if it doesn't what it's dealing with. You must also remember you’re most likely sharing the examiner with several other employers, and the examiner only has so many hours in a day. Her time will be focused on the employers who either squawk the most, or (and this is crucial) closely follow their files. Disinterested employers will always fall to the wayside. Yes, it will take time to keep up to speed on the claims. But it’ll pay dividends when it’s time for the file review because you’ll be a functioning part of the decision-making. So be interested. Be involved. And do you prep work. If you’re not prepared, it’s pretty easy for an examiner to gloss over prior missteps, especially if the employer is a workers' comp neophyte…and missteps cost the employer money.

Daniel Holden

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Daniel Holden

Dan Holden is the manager of corporate risk and insurance for Daimler Trucks North America (formerly Freightliner), a multinational truck manufacturer with total annual revenue of $15 billion. Holden has been in the insurance field for more than 30 years.


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