Opinion | We Need to Do a Better Job Taking Care of the Children of Injured Workers

By: | January 2, 2019 • 2 min read

Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

You would think there is a scarcity of injured workers the way a non-profit organization struggles to award college scholarships to children of those befallen by catastrophic workplace accidents.

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U.S. Department of Labor statistics show an average of 14 worker fatalities every day while 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illness occurred last year. So clearly, there is no shortage of families whose worlds get upended when workplace disasters claim a parent’s life or derail their ability to financially support their children.

Plenty of those families could benefit from scholarships from Kids’ Chance of America and its state affiliates. Kids’ Chance secures scholarship funding from workers’ compensation businesses.

But a workers’ comp system too inflexible to dispense kindness and assistance beyond providing minimally mandated benefits stands in the way of finding children to benefit from the scholarships. Adjuster and nurse case manager workloads, fear of violating privacy regulations, and lack of awareness that the help is available stymie developing a pipeline of scholarship funds flowing to potential recipients.

Regulators, workers’ comp claims organization CEOs, adjusters, nurse case managers, school guidance counselors, insurers and state workers’ comp agencies all could help.

They could assist with various efforts aimed at referring the families of deceased or injured workers to Kids’ Chance, no matter the age of a claimant’s children. The organization maintains a contact database for alerting young children when they eventually reach higher-education age.

Or, if CEOs and others have the authority, the could require claims adjusters and other front-line claims workers to inform families about connecting with Kid’s Chance scholarships.

Adding one more duty to an overloaded claims adjuster’s check list is a challenge. But leaving it up to front-line claims staff to voluntarily alert families about scholarship opportunities often fails.

Claims organizations also fear violating privacy regulations. Although, too much caution prevents allowable actions, like handing out Kids’ Chance contact information or website address to families.

U.S. Department of Labor statistics show an average of 14 worker fatalities every day while 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illness occurred last year. So clearly, there is no shortage of families whose worlds get upended when workplace disasters claim a parent’s life or derail their ability to financially support their children.

And families with young children near the time of an accident are not thinking of education needs years off in the future.

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But connecting children with Kids’ Chance scholarships can produce amazing results.

Alexandra Kurnath was a college freshman studying for final exams when her mother called with news of a car accident that put her father in a coma while traveling on business.

The accident “impacted my family in every way possible,” Kurnath told the 2018 National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference during it’s opening day breakfast in December.

A Kid’s Chance scholarship lifted the financial burden off Kurnath’s mom, allowing the student to return to school and earn a degree in human relations. She now works for an HR software company.

Help create more stories like Kurnath’s by leveraging the capacity within your workers’ comp purview to help Kid’s Chance raise funds and reach more kids. Information on the organization and how to connect scholarship recipients can be found here&

Risk Matrix: Presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]