Column: Roger's Soapbox

Perspective | Dear Adjuster, I Need to File a Hedgehog Claim

By: | August 30, 2018 • 3 min read
Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

Modern journalism means lists. Rather than provide facts, newspapers offer ‘listicles’ of the ‘10 Best Places to Eat Pigeons’ or ‘Actors You Didn’t Know Were Fat.’

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Insurance has a branch of this nonsense all its own, one which predates the Internet: the endless lists of supposedly true “funny” insurance claims. Motorists have always provided the bulk of the material.

You know the sort of thing. “Coming home I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don’t have.” Or “A pedestrian hit me and went under my car.”

Real claims are funnier. To make a point, a lawyer set fire to his pants (claim denied). A tourist in Athens ran helter-skelter into a bus shelter after ogling some women in bikinis (50 percent paid). Last week, I fell over a hedgehog.

Yes, I fell over a hedgehog. In my own living room. I’m not usually that close to nature; I live in an apartment on the 99th floor of my block.

(Well, the 9th. But still.)

Having recovered from the trauma and removed the blood from the carpet, I sat down to decide where the all-risks policy might be. I have an immaculate filing system. Without exception, everything is somewhere at all times.

Where was I? Oh yes, the hedgehog. It’s ceramic but looks convincingly like an actual hedgehog. I use it as a doorstop. It makes the place look kooky.

I had occasion to move the hedgehog one day, to stop another door from closing automatically. For insurance reasons, all my internal doors are fire doors, which slam shut whether you want them to or not — the original closed-door policy.

On the first possible occasion, I damaged my toe on the hedgehog. Fell over the bloody thing. It was painful. The irony didn’t help. There I was saving the planet for the hedgehogs, in my own way, and the damn thing tore a hole in my pinky toe, the one that went wee-wee-wee all the way home.

Mine went squelch, squelch, squelch all the way to the bathroom, and when I had stanched the wound, I discovered that I had bled at intervals on the new hall carpet. Being middle-class can be so very stressful.

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Having recovered from the trauma and removed the blood from the carpet, I sat down to decide where the all-risks policy might be. I have an immaculate filing system. Without exception, everything is somewhere at all times.

On that basis, I have every piece of paper that’s ever come my way, such as expired vacuum cleaner warranties for vacuums I no longer have. I’d have to wade through cabinets full of paper I was sure I’d never need to look at again, but kept because, in Fats Waller’s words, “one never know, do one?”

Luckily, at the last possible moment before I had to start the equally time-consuming search for the keys to the filing cabinets, I remembered that I didn’t need the policy after all. I had opted for a $100,000 deductible on my hedgehog coverage. After all, how likely is it that I would suffer a hedgehog-related injury in an apartment in the sky?

Let this be many lessons to you. Buy doors that stay open, even if they kill you in the end. Take smaller deductibles. Buy child-proof doorstops. Be kind to hedgehogs. You’re welcome. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]