|Post by Rip Van Riper|
My law firm administration has told me that it is now my turn to post something to the blog. I am inwardly groaning as this does not come easily for me. Nonetheless, I am very loyal to Stan, Pete, Ellen, Suzy and the rest. The firm wants me to blog…so I’ll blog.
I suspect that our readers are our clients or potential clients. Some may be our adversaries and competitors. Therefore, I’ve chosen to give some careful observations with an eye toward the improvement of the workers’ compensation system as a whole.
So here goes Part 1 of “Much Ado about Everything…in Workers’ Comp.”
Observation 1: The recent trend of consolidation of claims offices may well be costing carrier’s money. I suspect many are unaware of the hidden costs. The most effective adjusters are those who live in the community where the claims are filed. They know more of the doctors and the idiosyncrasies of local lawyers. They know which HR departments are generous and which are hard-nosed. They can attend depositions, sit outside of hearings and judge the work of their counsel. In contrast, a TPA located 700 miles away cannot have the personal oversight of each individual case in the same way as a local adjuster. In my 16 years since going on the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission in 1996 and being in private practice afterward, I have seen some mistakes that unnecessarily cost defendants some money. Some of these mistakes would not have been made if the adjuster were local and were physically present at depositions and the hearing.
Observation 2: There are no real educational or experience requirements to serve as a commissioner. Once a commissioner is appointed, they are mostly unsupervised. If, for example only, a commissioner does not show up for a hearing, acts rudely, has a business on the side into which a litigant could place money, punishes or rewards his or her friends or enemies, very little would be said or done. A first step in correcting this problem is to have all commissioners be licensed attorneys (with five years of civil trial practice). Lawyers are subject to the scrutiny of an ethically rigorous Supreme Court. To be sure, we have had some good commissioners who were not lawyers. Strongly in the favor of requiring commissioners to be lawyers is the fact that any violation of the Cannons of Ethics could cost one his license. Non-lawyers have no license to lose and are subject only to being disciplined by the State Ethics Commission.
Those are just some of my observations. In Part 2 of “Much Ado about Everything…in Workers’ Comp,” I’ll address the myth of the noble claimant.
Until then – have a great weekend.