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Study: job-related traffic crashes cause the most costly injuries

When we think of someone having a workers' compensation claim, the picture that springs to mind is often that of an injured construction worker. If the idea of an injured office worker comes to mind, we probably think of someone with carpal tunnel syndrome. But work-related traffic accidents affect people ranging from office workers and nurses to construction and industrial workers alike -- and a new report shows that on-the job car wrecks are typically the most serious of all non-fatal workers' comp claims.

The research, which was performed by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, found that workers' comp claims involving temporary but total injuries from traffic accidents cost an average of 62 percent more than other types of claims. When it came to permanent total injuries, claims involving work-related traffic accidents were almost 65 percent more costly to insurers than the average claim.

Even as each person's injuries are more likely to be serious, work-related crashes are also more likely to involve more than one employee. These "multiple-claim events" are of special concern to companies and their insurers both because they're expensive and because they cut sharply into the pool of available employees as well as the company's workplace accident rate.

On average, over 12 percent of claims involving work-related car and truck accidents are multiple-claim events -- twice the rate for all other types of on-the-job accident claims. Considering the average cost to insurers per worker injured, multiple-claim traffic accidents were also more serious even than single-claim wrecks. Per person, compensation for those involved in multiple-claim traffic accidents was an average of 15 percent higher than for those hurt in single-claim wrecks.

Ultimately, the severity of the average worker's injuries -- as measured by costs to the insurer -- was disproportionately higher for traffic accidents than for any other type of accident. Although work-related traffic accidents make up only 2 percent of all claims, they account for 7 percent of total insurer losses. They comprise 13 percent of permanent total injury cases and a third of all work-related fatalities.

If you ever drive for your job -- even running to the store for office supplies -- you are at risk for the most costly kind of workplace injury. Keep in mind that distracted driving, drunk driving, speeding and driving while sleepy are the leading causes of all traffic accidents, and that it's in everyone's interest if you take on safe driving as an official job duty.

Source: Risk & Insurance magazine's Workers' Comp Forum, "NCCI: Traffic accidents in WC add up to more lost time, severe, expensive," Feb. 18, 2013

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