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athens
athens administrators
 

Related Links

National Association of Subrogation Professionals:

http://www.subrogation.org

California Workers' Compensation Institute:

http://www.cwci.org

California Division of Workers' Compensation:

http://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/

Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau
of California:

https://wcirbonline.org/wcirb/

About Athens Administrators

Athens Administrators is a TPA for workers' compensation and liability claims. We have successfully administered claims for more than 30 years. Our clients include public agencies, regional businesses, insurance companies and Fortune 500 companies. We provide workers' compensation and liability claim administration services.

For more information
please contact:

Northern California
Bruce Lees
925.826.1103

Southern California
Michael Landa
909.451.1710

Toll Free
866.482.3535

info@athensadmin.com

Established 1976
Privately Owned
160+ Employees

www.athensadmin.com

 

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Workers' Compensation Subrogation – Bottom Line Savings or Missed Opportunities? 

When a workers' compensation injury is caused by a negligent third party (other than the employer), the injured worker has the right to sue the wrongdoer for damages in civil court.  The employer or insurance carrier also has subrogation interest - a right of recovery against the negligent party.  In such instances, there are 2 critical situational components to remember in determining if subrogation is warranted:

1. Unlike workers' compensation, which is a no-fault system, in the civil arena the employer or insurer must show that the third party was at fault in order to recover claim costs. 
2. If the employer's negligence is determined to be a causal factor, their rights to recovery will be reduced proportionately.

Recognizing Subrogation Potential

Generally there are three types of claims that could be caused by a third party:

1.The action or inaction of a third party (e.g., a motor vehicle accident)
2.Claims that occur on property owned by a third party (e.g., slip and fall claims)
3.Claims involving machinery or equipment that is owned or maintained by a third party

Investigating Subrogation Claims

In such cases, it is critical that a thorough investigation is performed quickly in order to preserve evidence and protect the interests of the employer or insurer.  Appropriate forms of investigation depend on the type of claim. They include:

Reports – Police, CHP, OSHA, Index, et al.
Photographs and surveillance tapes
Environmental studies
Product information, warranties, repair records, instruction manuals, invoices, shipping orders, maintenance logs, training records, etc.
Witness statements and depositions
Leases and rental agreements
Insurance policies and indemnification agreements

Subrogation Filings

There are three ways to protect the employer's or insurer's subrogation interests:

1. Complaint in Intervention – Employer can become a party to a civil case already filed by the injured worker
2. Complaint – Primarily used when the injured worker does not file a civil complaint
3. Notice of Lien – Offers the least amount of protection as the injured worker may settle without the lien claimant

Reimbursement vs. Credit

The workers' compensation claim and a related civil action do not typically follow the same timeline.  Often, the workers' compensation claim will take longer, and may be resolved when the civil case settles.  

The workers' compensation benefits paid at the time of the civil settlement represent the employer's claim for reimbursement.  The benefits that will be paid in the future represent the employer's potential credit.  There is a strategy in asserting and settling the employer's claim for credit that will depend on the strength of the case and the percentage of comparative negligence.

Subrogation Recoveries Directly Impact the Bottom Line

A strong workers' compensation program ensures subrogation is not an afterthought.  Claims adjusters should be actively trained, and possess the skills, to properly handle subrogation.  Investigations must be thorough, going beyond determining compensability of the workers' compensation claim.  Adjusters need to quickly recognize third party negligence at the front end of a claim, aggressively pursuing recovery throughout the claim.  Failure to identify potential subrogation is a missed opportunity to recover claims costs that directly impact the bottom line, and could represent millions of dollars in saving.