By defining and following a claims management plan, you can help reduce the financial impact of future claims. - IMAGE: Getty Images

By defining and following a claims management plan, you can help reduce the financial impact of future claims. 

IMAGE: Getty Images

Every day your team manages several operations at once. Unfortunately, one incident involving any of your dealership services could lead to a costly claim if you aren’t proactive. In my role, I often receive claim submissions, and I’ve seen firsthand how a proactive, well-managed claims process has helped dealerships save time and money. 

However, I’ve also seen how reacting to claims — instead of preparing for them — can lead to delays and increased costs. Consider the following hypothetical scenario:

Someone on your sales team conducts an inventory check, and during the process, they step on a crack in the asphalt, causing them to fall on their hip. The incident was reported to your sales manager, but the employee indicated they were fine. Two weeks later, the manager was informed the employee had been diagnosed with pelvic and ankle fractures by a physician.

Following three months of treatment, the doctor issued sedentary restrictions — a request your dealership didn’t accommodate. The employee retained an attorney, changed physicians, and was off work for more than a year. The employee’s case was settled with a high permanent-partial disability rating, and they never returned to your dealership. Your business’s total expenses for the case exceeded $275,000.

 The Takeaway

While this example is hypothetical, it could happen to any business, including yours. The delayed reporting and investigation – along with the lack of employee accommodations — led to a more costly claim than it could’ve been. 

To help you handle future claims, and avoid situations like the one above, I’ve gathered several tips you can take back to your team. 

  1. Create a formal claims reporting process

The time to prepare for a claim is before it happens, which is why the first step to managing claims is creating and following a formal process.

Ask yourself: What information would an employee need to report a claim? After all, your program is only valuable if it provides your team with the information and tools they need to submit a report.

Your resources should communicate the timeline of when employees must report an accident to your business, as well as their insurer. It also helps to provide any documents your employees would need, including accident report forms. These forms often include areas where employees can fill in the date, time, location, and description of the incident, as well as contact information of those involved.

Once you complete your plan, share it in an accessible location and use it as a training tool. Any information you provide should make it easier for employees to record an accurate and timely report.

  1. Collect and preserve evidence 

When you experience a loss — whether it’s caused by a fire, auto accident, or workers’ compensation claim — it’s important that you collect and preserve evidence related to the incident.

Your insurer can help explain which evidence you should collect and preserve based on your claim. Oftentimes, your insurance representative may ask you to maintain evidence of tangible property such as equipment, vehicles, machinery, and clothing. They may also ask you to document the conditions of items by taking photographs or sharing a description. 

Remember, the more information you can provide your insurer, the better they can help you resolve it.

  1.  Manage ongoing claims and medical treatment

The tips above should give you a good start, however if an incident involves medical treatment, your process may change. The way your dealership manages injuries can influence medical expenses, return-to-work rates, and employee morale. 

After an injury, share your business’s next steps with the employee. Post-injury topics usually include information about the return-to-work process, light-duty procedures, and determining a root cause or corrective action related to the incident. 

While state guidelines vary between who chooses the medical provider after an injury, you may inform injured employees of potential in-network healthcare providers. These providers can often provide timely access to medical care, lower treatment costs for employees, and may have a clearer understanding of your business’s return-to-work program. 

Finally, as the recovery process moves forward, ask supervisors to offer up their availability to the employee. Claims can be confusing and regular communication can help provide clarity to questions your employee has. 

Final Thoughts

You work hard to run a successful dealership, and preventing losses is essential to that goal. Unfortunately, human error can still lead to accidents and claims. That’s why the tips above are so important. 

By defining and following a claims management plan, you can help reduce the financial impact of future claims. So, don’t wait. Start preparing now by talking with your local experts or insurer. 

The few steps you take today could make the difference between a costly delay or a faster turnaround time that gets your business and team back on track sooner. 

Greg Larson is the assistant vice president of workers’ compensation claims for Sentry Insurance. Sentry provides insurance and risk management solutions to dealerships.