The Dog Days of August and North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claims

August 5, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

The dog days of August are upon us, and, according to an analysis of Travelers Insurance Claims Data, North Carolina workers’ compensation claims at small businesses are peaking.

According to a blog post at, travelers found that, from June through September, “workers’ comp claims peak – approximately one-third of all injuries involve workers under 30 years old.” Common claims include “lower back strains and other back-related injuries and injuries from slips, trips and falls.”

This is the 100-year anniversary of the very first workers’ comp insurance policy ever written, according to Travelers, and maybe now is an appropriate time to reflect on how far the entitlement system has come, as well as on the challenges that the North Carolina workers’ compensation community faces.

One way forward is to zero-in on trends like the ones highlighted in the Travelers report. For instance, if we know that small businesses face a spike in claims during the hot summer months, then maybe we can figure out precisely what is going on during those summer months that makes workers vulnerable.

Are the workers getting too hot and thus endangering themselves due to heat stroke, delirium, or dehydration? If so, that might suggest that a policy for helping workers cool off could make a big difference. Or maybe it’s the type of jobs being done during the summer months. Construction, engineering, remodeling, and so forth might spike during the summer months. Thus, the problem may simply be related to the type of work being done as opposed to heat-specific problems causing degradation of worker performance.

This may seem like an insignificant point.

But we need this kind of analytical thinking to make progress with workers’ compensation reform. What are the root causes of waste in the system? What are the root causes of worker injuries and illnesses? The answers may not be obvious. We may not be able to glean them easily from reports, statistical analyses, or even from meta analyses of claims data.

Good science in any field is notoriously hard to conduct. And well-intentioned policies based on bad science can redound to horrific effect. For instance, if we look at the Travelers data and make the assumption that heat was the problem [instead of the proliferation of dangerous jobs (e.g. construction jobs)], then our policy solutions would not address the problem. We might tell workers to take more breaks, drink more fluids, and stay in air-conditioning more. But we would not address the primary cause (too many dangerous jobs being done), and thus wouldn’t make a dent in the numbers.

Philosophizing aside, if you or someone you care about has a specific, serious question regarding your benefits, a fight with an insurance company, or a battle with an employer, a North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm can help you figure what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.

More Web Resources:

“approximately one-third of all injuries involve workers under 30 years old.”

Correlation vs. Causation