Risk Insider: Joe Cellura

Keep Head Trauma in Mind- Part 2

By: | February 9, 2016 • 2 min read
Joe Cellura is President, North American Casualty, at Allied World, responsible for for the production and profitability of Primary Casualty, Excess Casualty, Environmental, Surety, Primary Construction and Programs. He can be reached at [email protected]

This is part two of a two-part Risk Insider post by Allied World’s president of North America Casualty Joe Cellura on the dangers of scholastic athletic head injuries.

Part One can be seen here.

In last week’s post I detailed the breadth of the athletic head injury program and talked about how substantial legal settlements with the National Football League could become.

One question now before us is can municipalities be liable for student injuries that occur on the sports fields, or even those that arise years later when students’ time playing at their alma mater has become a blurred memory?

While team sports are a huge part of school cultures, the coverages in place today are unlikely to address this risk.

Municipalities and risk managers alike must ask, is being reactive the right strategy here? Is education and response enough or do we need to do more in terms of prevention?

Do waivers cover any responsibility in this regard? Contact sports, football especially, are deeply embedded in American culture, core to the identity like apple pie or Uncle Sam.

While team sports are a huge part of school cultures, the coverages in place today are unlikely to address this risk. As a result, municipalities could be on the hook. For such a critical topic, the insurance industry to date has taken very little proactive action to address very real concerns.

Insurers need to immediately start treating this emerging risk with focused underwriting, engineering and appropriate coverage terms. The exposure is upon us and remaining silent could ultimately become a recipe for expensive litigation and loss.

Underwriters should have exposure specific questionnaires targeted to sports related head injuries. An example could include questions regarding history of incidents, training, injury documentation and tracking.

Loss control and engineering services could be provided focusing on appropriate preventative measures and safeguards, which could include everything from appropriate liability waivers to on-site medical staffing, injury identification and treatment protocols.

Finally, exposure specific coverages will need to be developed.  These coverage’s could address the date of, as well as the number of, occurrences, how to address pre-existing injury and defense obligations.

Long-term monitoring costs could also be considered along with policy conditions for notification and liability waiver warranties.  The public entity sector has seen similar advances in underwriting, loss control and coverage in the wake of the increased incidence of sexual abuse cases.

It’s time for the industry to consider similar advances in the area of sports related head injury.

The growing trend of concussions at the municipality level, and the rise of attention given to research and settlements at a collegiate and professional level, presents insurance carriers and risk managers with an opportunity to address this issue head on – pun intended – and be more proactive in thinking about how to address the serious risks associated with contact sports at all levels.

As the number of concussions grows among student athletes, perhaps the number of conversations among insurers will grow as well. And that’s a good and necessary thing.

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.


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.


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]