Applying Restorative Justice Concepts in the Resolution of Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury Claims
How restorative justice works:
After a work or personal injury, the application of restorative justice principles seeks to help the injured person and their family repair the harm that has been caused. It is intended to deal with the emotional reactions of anger, frustration and fear often associated with a work or personal injury caused by the negligence of another person. It is also intended to provide support to the injured person which will permit him/her to heal better, faster and with less medical and other expenses.
How the current system works:
In many personal injury claims, the parties (injured person and their family, one or more insurance companies, the person at fault and the medical profession) often develop an adversarial relationship. This relationship may be informal or dealt with through the litigation process.
In many work injuries, the parties (injured person and their family, the workers’ compensation insurance company, the employer and the medical profession) also may develop an adversarial relationship. The relationship may also be informal or dealt with through the workers’ compensation administrative hearing process.
Research has demonstrated that the adversarial litigation system traditionally used for the resolution of both workers’ compensation and personal injury claims is often drawn out and can be very expensive. The scope of these costs vary, but generally include medical expenses, lost time from work, permanent disability payments, legal fees, court costs and payment of civil judgments.
There has also been significant research indicating that emotional reactions after work or personal injuries may impede physical recovery. These emotions include fear, anger, frustration and worry. In cases of serious injury, there is often the fear of loss of work and long term disability as well as fear of the financial exposure for current and future medical expenses. In many cases, there is often anger at the party responsible for the injury and the lack of either an apology or acknowledgment of responsibility for one’s actions. In a work comp claim, there may also be anger at one’s employer who may not be supportive of the need to take time off from work because of the injury or to attend medical appointments. In many cases, an injured person may experience frustration with both the medical and insurance systems. The medical process may take longer than anticipated and the insurance process will most likely not provide financial support during the most difficult part of the claim, until a final settlement is reached.
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