Utah law requires that workmen's compensation payments be made to an injured worker in a timely and speedy manner, but until now the State Industrial Commission had no idea if that requirement was being met.
Commissioner John Florez said the Industrial Accidents Division is spending $42,000 initially - and maybe more later - to monitor insurance carriers and self-insurers on the time it takes between an accident and when the injured person receives some benefits.Mary Betts, division supervisor, said the goal is 21 days from the date of injury until the workmen's compensation payments are in the hands of the injured worker so the person can pay monthly bills.
Only 2 percent of the workmen's compensation claims ever go to litigation, the result of a dispute between the insurance carrier and the claimant, but until now the commission didn't have a way to monitor the time lapse in 98 percent of the cases.
Florez said the legislative intent in passing the Workmen's Compensation Act many years ago was to get the injured party paid quickly and get him back into the work force quickly. The new computer monitoring the time lapse will aid in meeting the legislative intent of quick service for injured workers, he said.
Utah law requires all of the people involved in dealing with an injured worker to submit reports within a certain period. For example, a person injured Sept. 1 goes to the doctor on Sept. 2 and the doctor has seven days to submit a medical report to the insurance carrier.
Occasionally the insurance carrier must contact the injured person for additional information, but it is at this level the commission wants to determine if payments are being made quickly. The computer program will monitor the progress of the benefits.
Florez said the commission also will include on the "First Report of Injury" form information telling injured workers if they have any questions about the process to call the division.
Also, the commission is encouraging employers to notify their employees who their workmen's compensation insurance carrier is so the First Report of Injury can be mailed quickly. He is suggesting that employers post in a conspicuous place the name of the insurance carrier.
Commission Chairman Stephen M. Hadley said occasionally the mission of an organization needs alteration and in the case of injured workers and getting them benefits, these changes it's hoped will mean fewer cases that result in litigation.
He said 98 percent of the workmen's compensation cases are processed without many problems. Even though only 2 percent are litigated, that still is a significant number.
Commissioner Thomas R. Carlson favors the computer monitoring program, saying the commission must modernize. With Utah's growing population and the inevitability of the growing amount of business handled by the commission, modern technology will allow the division staff to monitor hundreds of cases.
In addition to monitoring the progress of workmen's compensation claims, Florez said the computer system will allow the commission to determine if other state agencies are helping people get back into the work force quickly or determine if they need help in retraining or rehabilitation.