By Ronald Hilley II, Esq.
For employers, with social distancing and more specifically co-workers who no longer work physically in the same location, investigating claims will be different. Of course, adjusters always have (with a few exceptions) investigated claims by phone or email. Even for employers, HR offices are not always in the same location. Still, the core of the investigation is the onsite supervisor, department head or safety/risk manager so that may change now.
There are two main situations where remote investigation will be necessary: when an employee is injured working from home and when an employee is injured at a time when those doing the investigating are not in the same place. In the second situation, it may be that the employee and investigator are no longer working on the same day, as companies do not have their entire workforce at the plant at the same time.
If you cannot sit face to face with an employee, you still have the option of phone and email. However, now that we all have become more accustomed to video communication for business, that form of interview may be the best option. You get to see the employee, and for those who were never in the same location as the employee, this is now a tool you can use that previously one might have thought was intrusive. You can even record the interview. Please keep in mind that GA is a one party state meaning one of the parties to the conversation must be aware it is being recorded but you or your employee may reside in another state where the law is stricter. Therefore, regardless as to GA law and to be open with your employees, we recommend you notify the employee if you are going to record the interview/conversation.
The video is not just to be able to “look someone in the eye” to see if he or she is lying. Employees can demonstrate how they were injured. They can also literally show you their injuries.
We have always relied on emails and more recently texts when communicating with employees. However, not all employees have access to the technology at home. This fact may still be true but it is changing. There are even free apps to scan documents. Therefore, employees should be able to provide you documentation – including medical notes/releases – instantaneously.
What has changed in the last three months is not so much that there is new technology, but that this technology is now accessible to not just employers but employees and that everyone is now more comfortable using it. From an employer perspective, the ability to get more information and to get it quicker can only be a positive.