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R&R Insurance Blog

Scott Shaver

Recent Posts

Potential Worker’s Compensation Changes on the Horizon

Posted by Scott Shaver

iStock-534314106.jpgEvery two years, the Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC) negotiates a bill that goes off to the legislature for consideration. The WCAC, made up of 5 representatives from management and 5 representatives from labor, tries to come to agreement on a bill that makes modifications to the Worker’s Compensation Act. It has a long standing history in our State, with each side attempting to get changes that benefit those they represent.

There are several potential changes that are noteworthy  for this cycle. Here is a summary of the big items:

  • Fee Schedule: Both sides have agreed that there is a need for a fee schedule as a way to better control medical expenses. We are one of the few States in the country that has no fee schedule. As a result, it’s not uncommon for a work related medical procedure to cost two to three times more than the same procedure that is non-work related. The challenge here is that the fee schedule has not yet been developed and it is supposed to be based on negotiated health insurance rates. Networks are very protective of the rates that they have negotiated with providers. I see that as an obstacle. The other component of this proposal is that any savings realized from the fee schedule are to be shared with injured workers. Call me a pessimist, but I will be surprised if this ends up looking anything like what the management representatives envisioned.
  • Permanent Partial Disability: Permanent Partial Disability rates will increase substantially over the next two years. The current rate is $362. That will increase to $382 in 2018 and $407 in 2019. Those are some hefty benefit increases at 5.5% and 6.5% respectively. How do those percentage increases compare to your budget for merit increases?
  • Injury Multiplier: This provision could prove to be quite expensive for businesses. This will allow an additional 15% in benefits to workers with scheduled injuries who are not able to come back to work within 85% of their pre-injury wage. This is a benefit that did not exist in the past.

It appears as though the management representatives gave some big increases in indemnity benefits in hopes that savings from a fee schedule will offset those increases. Time will tell.

There are several other proposals as part of this agreed bill that will impact the premiums moving forward including supplemental benefits, loss of hearing and treatment of opioids. For a full list of changes, click here.

Please feel free to reach out to me if you would like to better understand how these changes could impact your worker’s compensation premiums. 

Topics: Work Comp

Fleet Safety | Can You Sustain a $24M Verdict?

Posted by Scott Shaver

iStock_000010641551_Large-1.jpgBack in 2012, Coca-Cola was hit with a $24 Million distracted driving judgment. The plaintiff’s attorneys were able to successfully argue that Coca Cola’s cell policy for drivers was "vague and ambiguous." They also suggested that Coca-Cola was aware of the dangers but withheld this information from its employee driver, which led directly to the circumstances that caused the accident. The jury awarded $14 million in actual damages and another $10 in punitive damages to a woman hit by a Coca-Cola truck driver who was chatting on her cell phone.

Do you have a robust “fleet policy” in place? Are your employees aware of your expectations while driving? Do you periodically provide training to your employees who drive for business, whether in your company vehicle or in their own personal vehicle? If you answered no to any of those questions, you are exposed to a similar Coca-Cola fate.

Having and enforcing a “fleet policy” with a clear expectation on cell phone usage is vital to protecting your employees, the general public, and your company assets.

If you would like to see a sample fleet policy, please click here. It’s just one of the many resources that we share with our clients at R&R as a way of creating value.

Contact me if you would like to learn more about increasing the profitability of your company by proactively controlling risk exposures.

Topics: distracted driving, Fleet Safety

Workers Compensation and the NFL

Posted by Scott Shaver

NFL.jpgIt’s not something that most people think about, but just like your business, NFL teams also have to purchase worker’s compensation insurance for their employees. And just like the benefits that are afforded your employees, football players are covered for lost wages, medical treatment, loss of earnings, etc.  

No doubt that the medical treatment for an injured NFL player could get to be quite expensive. But the concept of paying loss of earnings to a player beyond their normal playing years doesn’t seem to be sitting well with the owners of the Chicago Bears.

Click here for the article with additional information.

Benefits in Wisconsin are actually much richer. An employee injured in Wisconsin could continue to collect similar benefits for a lifetime, regardless of when they might have retired.

We will see how this all shakes out and whether or not it will have an impact on Chicago’s ability to sign players in the future.

Contact me with any questions about your Workers Compensation, and Go Pack in 2017!

Topics: Work Comp

OSHA Penalties to Increase as of August 2016

Posted by Scott Shaver

OSHA.jpgIn 2015, Congress passed the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act to advance the effectiveness of civil monetary penalties and to maintain their deterrent effect. That law directed agencies to adjust their penalties for inflation each year using a much more straightforward method than previously available, and required agencies to publish “catch up” rules this summer to make up for lost time since the last adjustments.

As a result, the U.S. Department of Labor announced recently an interim final rule to adjust its OSHA penalties for inflation based on the last time each penalty was increased.

So what does that mean to you? OSHA’s maximum penalties, which have not been raised since 1990, will increase by 78 percent. The top penalty for serious violations will rise from $7,000 to $12,471 and the maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations will increase from $70,000 to $124,709.

Click here to download a complete list of the OSHA penalty increase.

Topics: OSHA, OSHA fines

OSHA’s View On Post Accident Drug Testing

Posted by Scott Shaver

Workers-Compensation.jpgSo we finally get a change in the Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation Act that supports an employer’s post-accident drug testing program, and then “OSHA” happens…

On May 11, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a final rule revising its Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses regulations. In addition to addressing many aspects of the claim reporting process, OSHA has prohibited employers from using drug testing (or the threat of drug testing) as a form of adverse action against employees who report injuries or illnesses. They indicate that employers should limit post-accident testing to situations in which employee drug use is likely to have contributed to the incident.

So what does that mean to you? If you have a post-accident testing program that requires testing after any and all injuries, you will need to re-evaluate your program and implement changes by August 16, 2016. This is when the part of this rule takes effect.

If you have questions about whether or not your current policy will be in violation, please contact me so that we can discuss.

Topics: Accident Drug Testing

A Common Computer Scam Tricks My Dad

Posted by Scott Shaver

iStock_58498148_XLARGE.jpgAbout 9 months ago, my dad called me concerned about a message that he had gotten on his computer at home. My dad and his wife are both retired and live up in a small town in northern Wisconsin.

The message on the screen said that he had a virus on his computer and it provided a phone number to call to get it fixed. How convenient. Turns out he wasn’t as concerned about the message as he was about what he did after he got the message.

By the time my dad had reached out to me, he had already called the number on the message and had paid to have a “tech” on the other end of the line diagnose what was wrong with his computer. My dad was calling to get my thoughts on whether or not he had done the right thing. Turns out he had not.

Click here to learn more about how this scam works and hopefully avoid it happening to you or a family member.

Cyber-attacks at work and at home are a growing trend and all indications are that they will continue to grow in numbers and methods. Be sure that you are doing all that you can to protect yourself and your business.

For additional resources on cyber security, click here to download our Cyber e-Book.

Topics: Cyber Liability

Chopping Wood with Henry Ford - Preparing for Changes to the Wisconsin Workers Compensation Act

Posted by Scott Shaver

iStock_000021750256_Large.jpgHenry Ford once said “chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.” I’m here to tell you now’s the time to evaluate your pre-loss and post loss workers compensation strategies and it will warm you even more.

The standing committees in both the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate have recently approved the 2015-2016 Workers Compensation Advisory Council agreed-bill. With the 23 provisions contained in the agreed-bill, employers should be prepared to maximize the impact of those changes to better control their workers compensation costs. Here’s a brief summary of those items. And here is a complete list summary of the changes.

  • Statute of Limitations: The statute of limitations, the time that an injured worker has to come back after an employer for an alleged work related injury, will move from 12 years (longest in the country) to 6 years, but only for traumatic injuries. Occupational/repetitive type injuries, those that take place over time, will still have a 12 year statute of limitation.
    • Strategy: It will be even more important for you as an employer to fully investigate alleged injuries and document relevant facts. A strong accident investigation process, along with the use of a body-diagram tool, will go a long way towards defending those cases that move from an allegation that the injury was traumatic to now it’s an occupation injury simply to double the statute of limitations. Now is the time to evaluate your accident investigation process and tools.
  • Permanent Partial Disability Rates to Increase: The rates used to determine permanent partial (PPD) disability will increase by over 5.5% over each of the next two years. That may not seem like a big number, but it’s estimated that these PPD increases alone will have an impact on your worker’s compensation rates over the next two years.
    • Strategy: It’s time to take a fresh look at your pre-loss strategies. What are you doing to prevent serious injuries from taking place in your operation? Have you gotten complacent? When is the last time you had someone come through to perform an evaluation of your processes and procedures? Now is the time to evaluate your pre-loss strategies.
  • Apportionment of Permanent Partial Disability: Physicians who prepare a report on permanent disability will now be allowed to differentiate between the issues of permanent disability caused by the direct result of a work related injury versus disability that was pre-existing. In other words, if you have an employee with a pre-existing disability and they get an additional disability as a result of the work injury, you should only be responsible for the disability caused by your work related injury.
    • Strategy: It may be time to re-evaluate the concept of requiring a post-offer physical. Documentation of existing permanent disabilities or physical impairments may have an impact on the cost of future worker’s compensation claims. Now is the time to complete a cost-benefit analysis on a implementing a post-offer physical.
  • Termination for Misconduct: Once an employee is released to light duty and they are suspended or terminated due to misconduct, temporary disability can now be denied.
    • Strategy: It’s time to take a look at your human resource policies & procedures to be sure that you have an appropriate disciplinary process documented and that you are following it consistently. Expect a lot of litigation regarding this provision. When’s the last time you blew the dust off that employee handbook to be sure it’s up-to-snuff?
  • Liability for Injuries Related to Drugs & Alcohol: In theory, this provision will bar recovery of indemnity benefits when an employee violates your drug and/or alcohol policy and where there is a direct causation between violation of the policy and the workplace injury. In reality, there are applicant attorneys who are already covering the circuit stating that there is a flaw with this provision and it will not do what it was intended to do. Snookered again, but time will tell.
    • Strategy: When is the last time you evaluated your drug and alcohol policy? Do you have a drug and alcohol policy? Is it documented and consistently followed? Now is the time either to implement a policy if you don’t have one or re-evaluate what you have in place.

As an employer, you now have the benefit of some employer-friendly changes in the Wisconsin Workers Compensation Act. If you are looking at optimizing the potential impact on your organization,  contact me for additional information. Let me help you evaluate whether or not you are positioned to take advantage of these changes.

 

Topics: Work Comp

Community Action Agencies | Prepare Employees for Slip & Fall Exposures

Posted by Scott Shaver

As we reach the end of the year and the weather continues to get colder, Community Action Agencies face some renewed challenges. From weatherization activity to home health care visits, snow and ice will present employees with slip and fall exposures. Preparing employees for those exposures will reduce the likelihood of a workplace injury.

 

John Brengosz, our Loss Control Specialist shares 3 slip and fall prevention tips to protect your employees from incidents this season.

 

Topics: Business Insurance

Work Comp Update: Carnac the Magnificent Goes to Madison

Posted by Scott Shaver

Workers-Compensation-UpdateNo one has ever accused me of being a clairvoyant. Heck, if I had the ability to predict the future, I never would have traveled out to Denver to watch the Packers get pushed around by the Broncos. But every so often, I accumulate enough information to make an educated guess on future events. That includes events that could change the worker’s compensation landscape in Wisconsin.

 

Proposed changes to the work comp act are coming in from all directions but there are definitely some common themes that have emerged. From the Governor's budget bill, to the Worker's Compensation Advisory Council's agreed bill, to a potential bill from State Representative John Spiros, it doesn't take an omniscient soothsayer like Carnac the Magnificent to figure out that change is on the horizon. Here's a summary of most of the changes that I anticipate you will see take effect in 2016. These changes will have an impact on your workers compensation premiums going forward.

 

  • The rate paid for permanency due to injuries and surgeries is going up. Look for increases averaging about 6% each year over the next two years. That bodes well for injured workers and the attorneys who represent them.

 

  • Injured workers who are permanently and totally disabled with an injury date of 1/1/2003 and earlier are going to get a raise in the disability benefits they receive.

 

  • Injured workers who are going to school for retraining will be able to work a part-time job up to 24 hours without having an offset on their disability payments. They now have the potential of making more money on worker’s compensation than they were making at the time they were injured.

 

  • Medical providers will now have limitations on what they can charge for medicines dispensed at their offices.

 

  • Medical providers will also have limitations on what they can charge payers for electronic medical records. That limit will most likely be $10 per request.

 

  • An injured worker will have less time to file a claim against their employer. The statute of limitations will move from 12 years to at least 6 years. Maybe even 2 years.

 

  • Permanency ratings for injuries, provided by physicians, will now be offset by pre-existing permanent disabilities and physical impairments.

 

  • Injured workers on light duty who are terminated for good cause based on UI standards will no longer be able to collect Temporary Total Disability (TTD) payments.

 

  • Administrative Law Judges will have the ability to force you to pay for retraining your injured workers when you are unable to accommodate permanent restrictions, even before they have stepped foot in a classroom. This will increase the settlement value of future claims.

 

So let’s be clear; this is just my speculation. If I truly had the ability to predict the future, I would be sipping pina coladas on a warm beach somewhere right now. But here I am living in Wisconsin and the only thing I know for sure is that it’s going to get much colder very soon. At least I think it will.

 

If you would like to discuss how these potential changes could impact the cost of your worker’s comp, or better yet, if you would like some advice on how to best position yourself to make the most of these changes, please contact me so that we can discuss further.

Topics: Workers Compensation, Business Insurance

The Boring Beetle of Worker’s Compensation

Posted by Scott Shaver

Large Rate Increase for Landscapers Effective 10/1/15

 

Landcape

Over the past 9 years or so, worker’s compensation rates for Wisconsin landscapers have remained relatively flat. Business owners have benefited from predictability in costs for their most expensive line of casualty insurance. With the new rates effective for 10/1/15 – 9/30/16, owners should be prepared for an invasion on their bottom line similar to the effect the Emerald ash borer has had on unprotected ash trees.

 

With rates averaging about $9.72 for every $100 of landscape payroll from 2006 – 2013, the industry saw a 3% rate increase in 2014. This year, with a new rate of $11.35, you are facing a 12.8% increase compared to last year.

 

Unfortunately, you have no control over the landscape rate that is calculated by the Wisconsin Compensation Rating Bureau. You do, however, have control over many other aspects of your business that will have a direct impact on what you pay for your worker’s compensation insurance. But like every great landscaping project, it requires a vision and a plan. Do you have a plan in place to prepare yourself for substantial worker’s comp premium increases next year?

Topics: Workers Compensation, Work Comp, Business Insurance, landscapers