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Workers comp claims keep governments on their toes
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Workers’ compensation claims July 2013-May 2015

Hall County

• Payouts: $1.06 million

• Claims: 291

• Number of employees: 1,300

Gwinnett County

• Payouts:$1.67 million

• Claims: 623

• Number of employees: 4,825

Forsyth County

• Payouts: $1.7 million

• Claims: 340

• Number of employees: 1,900

There is a certain trust that comes with workers’ compensation claims.

Trust that an injury happened on the job. Trust that an injury warrants medical and salary payouts. Trust that employees will do everything in their power to get back to work as quickly as possible.

But when that trust is broken, even once, suspicion lingers over the whole process.

For instance, even if a legitimate injury occurs, how can employers know for sure workers are not taking advantage of paid time off?

Protecting against fraud is difficult. That’s why most governments have a third party review and administer workers’ compensation claims.

Sometimes that might involve checking on an employee to verify the seriousness of an injury, like something out of a candid camera show, but that is not a common practice.

Hall County Human Resources Director Bill Moats said only in rare instances do workers make false claims or defraud the benefit, which typically includes medical payouts and salary reimbursement. And many injury reports do not result in compensation.

Moats said that’s why even the smallest injuries — a cut finger, a bruised knee — are recorded as a matter of policy.

Hall County paid out about $1.06 million on 291 claims between July 2013 and May 2015. County government employs about 1,300 workers.

Some injuries are more serious. Hall County has already paid out more than $520,000 to three firefighters who suffered back and spinal injuries one year ago when the bucket they were in atop a fire truck ladder fell four stories during a training exercise.

Many injuries happen to law enforcement officers when trying to subdue an aggressive or inmate or suspect.

Other injury reports appear silly and humorous, like watching someone trip over themselves, and don’t often result in compensation.

A list of claims obtained by The Times, for example, includes an incident where a worker strained a calf while playing four-square during training. Another worker experienced a strained neck while setting up a pole for a volleyball net.

Then there’s the just plain goofy, such as a buttocks contusion resulting from slipping and falling on a mop bucket, or a cut from trying to change a light bulb.

And in between are all kinds of bites, stings and burns.

It’s difficult to compare claims and payouts between governments. It’s simply not an apples to apples comparison.

For example, Gwinnett County, which employs about 4,800 workers, paid $1.67 million on 623 claims between July 2013 and May 2015.

And Forsyth County, which has about 1,900 workers, paid out close to $1.7 million on more than 170 claims during that same timeframe.

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