As an attorney representing injured workers in Washington States, I believe it is important to stay abreast of developments in workers compensation. Amongst other things, changes to the law, new cases that have been decided, and administrative developments can all have a dramatic impact on claims. One of my goals in representing injured workers is to address claim related issues as proactively as possible. Workers’ compensation is often quite reactive because we must often first wait for the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) or third party administrator to make a claim related decision before we can take the appropriate steps to address any flawed portions of the decision being made. However, I believe it is important to be well versed in the facts to give us the best chance of foreseeing potential issues that might arise and to have an effective strategy for dealing with those issues before they become impediments to claim progress.
The same is true for administrative developments that may impact claims. It is important to be aware of the developments being made, to anticipate potential claim related issues that might arise as a result of the developments, and to formulate an effective strategy for managing any negative impact on claims as a result of the development. As a result, I am subscribed to several news updates from L&I.
The new Early Case Reserve (ECR) system
Today I received a news update from the Retrospective Rating Program announcing that effective April 18, 2019, L&I will be implementing a new predictive modeling system to estimate claim costs called “Early Case Reserve” or ECR. According to the news bulletin, ECR will provide employers and their representatives with an estimate of future claim costs much sooner than has historically been available. In fact, the estimate costs will now be available just 30 days following the filing of a claim with L&I and once the initial value is applied to the claim, the system will re-evaluate and update her projected costs on a monthly basis.
According to the news bulletin, the goal of the ECR is to help employers and their representative improve their ability to manage claims and to support better-informed decisions by employers about return-to-work options for injured workers. After all, according to L&I, better return to work outcomes mean lower costs for employers.
The impact on injured workers
As you can imagine, this raises a significant concern for me as I endeavor to best represent my clients. I believe in the underlying intent and purpose of the Industrial Insurance Act, to reduce to a minimum the suffering and economic impact on injured workers and their beneficiaries. While I do not deny the importance for employers to be able to asses and evaluate workers compensation costs exposures, I worry that using statistical data to project the costs of current claims so early in the process will have significant negative impacts on injured workers. In short, because the ECR will be available 30 days after a claim is filed, it will be available within the 60-day time frame for protesting and appealing a decision allowing a claim. Rather than the intended result of supporting better informed decisions about return-to-work options for injured workers, I believe these early cost estimates will be used as a deciding factor in whether to contest the allowance of a claim to begin with. I think this is a significant issue that representatives of injured workers are going to need to be prepared to address moving forward.