How to hack work comp costs. Use the right words.

“Pictures say a thousand words”, but a single word paints only one picture.  Often the picture it paints is the wrong picture.  And most of us don’t realize it until it is too late.  In my book, Less Than One – Busting the Work Comp Barrier (on Amazon), I offer many tips on controlling your costs and one of my favorite is the use of language in initial claim reporting.  Today, we are going to explore this cost saving concept in more depth.

The power of words has long been known in the world of advertising and now with big data capabilities, we can zero in on the power of words unlike ever before.  We can see where people click, what content they read, we can analyze how words are associated with claim descriptions, litigation costs, judgements and settlements, and much more.

If I make the statement “I barely scratched his car bumper and the guy is suing me”, what do you see in your mind’s eye?  A minor dent and some guy that thinks he is entitled to money just because?  I hardly doubt you imagined a bumper smashed into the rear seat of the vehicle.  The same holds true when we describe a worker’s compensation claim.  All too often we just very descriptive words that bring on strong emotions – sliced, crushed, twisted, threw my back out, and many more.  All of these words paint strong mental pictures.

How to control the negative reactions

Did the person fracture or crush their finger?  Did they pull a muscle or tear a muscle?  Did they lacerate their leg or slice it to the bone?  While the injury remains the same, claims adjusters, attorneys and doctor’s initial reaction is based on the description you give them.  And that reaction can raise the reserve amount of a claim like the desert sun does the mercury. So, how do you hack those negative reactions?

Simple, use the right words. just published this article on convincing words and BufferSocial explains the best 189 words that convert.  Both of these explain how words lead the mind down a particular pathway.  The research is intriguing and shows how people respond to a single word.  Never say I didn’t warn you, but you always get more with a kind word.

Selecting the right words may seem easy, but in the legal world of workers compensation we have to be careful not to use words that don’t accurately describe the injury. If we do, we run the risk of making matters worse for everyone involved.  However, we don’t need to exaggerate the description either.  And therein lies the magic that helps us keep the claim costs in check.  How does that work you ask??

It works because of the XMOD formula.  It uses the total incurred (which includes reserves) to calculate the expected values and the actual values (total incurred) of the claims.  This difference is what increases your XMOD.  Have more total incurred than expected and insurance companies are looking to make themselves whole again.

Using the right words also works because it doesn’t let negative thinking enter the psyche of the injured employee.  It keeps the expectations in check.  It provides hope of returning to work, reaching a full recovery and being able to return to a normal life.  And all of that positive emotion adds up to a win-win-win for everyone involved.

hack work comp posts

In our return-to-work training program, we go over the impact that words have on injured employees.  We show Return-to-Work Coordinators the difference between capabilities and restrictions.  We discuss at length the communication loop and objection handling.  Why?  Because most training programs don’t.  And most training programs don’t get the results that you want.  Want to know more about our return-to-work training program, leave a comment below.

Below are word pairs, see what comes to mind when you read them.  Then ask yourself what word you will use next time to describe the injury:

  • contusion – bruise
  • slice – laceration
  • cut – laceration
  • abrasion – tore
  • impaled – inserted
  • injected – stuck
  • hemorrhage – bleed
  • pulled – strained
  • strained – threw out
  • cramp – stomach pain
  • smashed – made contact
  • contacted – crushed
  • hit – contacted
  • smacked – contacted
  • driving 55 – traveling at a high rate of speed
  • tripped – stumbled
  • dislocated – separated
  • disjointed – moved
  • break – separated





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