Employees of Montana State University, Montana Agricultural Experiment Stations, Extension Service and Fire Service Training School are covered by Workers' Compensation insurance coverage through MSU’s participation in the Montana University System Self-Funded Workers’ Compensation Program. Benefits prescribed by state law for qualifying job-related injuries or occupational diseases include related expenses for medical treatment, wage compensation, Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work assistance, rehabilitation costs and disability compensation. This coverage is provided at no cost to employees. MSU volunteers are not covered by workers’ compensation.
The Workers' Compensation program emphasizes fostering a safety culture throughout the Montana University System by focusing on the value of each employee, the prevention of injuries and illnesses, providing an equitable outcome in the event of a work-related injury or occupational disease and returning employees to productive work as soon as they are medically released by their treating physician. It is recognized that returning to the work environment as soon as possible after an on the job injury or illness occurs has a positive impact upon the healing process, and is in the best interests of the employee and employer alike.
Injured workers who are returned to productive work, as soon as medically released to do so by their treating physician, heal faster and better, require less medical care, experience less disruption to their personal lives, maintain full earning capacity, benefits, financial stability, and maintain the positive self-esteem that comes from remaining a productive member of the university community.
MSU Safety & Risk Management is responsible for administering MSU’s Workers’ Compensation program. The campus claims coordinator (Claims Coordinator) is the specific individual within SRM to assist employees and supervisors in accessing, completing, and submitting a work comp claim. The Claims Coordinator is available to coordinate the claims process but is not a claims adjustor and does not determine the acceptability or the compensability of a claim.
A. Reporting Process
- Report all work related injuries to your supervisor or the Claims Coordinator as soon as possible, but in no case over 30 days from the date of injury. The First Report of Injury and Occupational Disease must be submitted even if the supervisor questions whether or not the reported injury is work related (there is an opportunity to include supervisor comments). The entire electronic reporting process is encrypted.
- To claim an occupational disease you must notify your supervisor and submit a First Report of Injury and Occupational Disease within one year from the date you knew, or should have known your symptoms resulted from work related conditions.
- Montana law requires employers to complete the First Report of Injury and Occupational Disease within six days after notice of every work related accident, injury and/or occupational disease by a worker; however, the form must be completed immediately if the injured employee has sought, or plans to seek medical treatment. The form is now in two parts and requires both the employee and the supervisor to participate. Once the employee has completed his/her portion, an email with instructions is automatically generated to their supervisor who then completes the remaining information and prints the report for signature. The original, signed report must be mailed to the Claims Coordinator (Campus Mail delivers).
- Be sure to explain the cause in detail (e.g., “cut left index finger” instead of “cut finger”).
- We recommend you report minor injuries whether or not you seek professional medical treatment. Reporting incidents and injuries sustained in the workplace is not viewed as a negative by administrators and managers, however early reporting of minor incidents can help prevent serious injuries to others as repetitive minor incidents and near misses have a direct correlation to eventual serious incidents and injuries.
- Contact the Claims Coordinator at (406) 994-6889 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or require assistance. In the event of a fatality or serious injury requiring hospitalization, notify the Claims Coordinator immediately.
- The Claims Coordinator will review and finalize the claim and submit it to the third-party adjusting company retained by the MUS Self-Funded Workers’ Compensation Program (they are Intermountain Claims in Billings, MT).
- If you seek medical treatment before a claim number has been assigned by the adjustor, inform the treating physician that your injury is work related and that the adjusting company responsible for managing MSU’s work comp claims is Intermountain Claims. They can be reached at (866) 722-4421.
- It is important to know that newly enacted workers’ compensation statutes do not allow you complete freedom of choice of medical providers. You may choose the treating physician for the initial treatment. Any time after acceptance of a claim, the claims adjustor may designate a different physician, or approve your choice of treating physician (MCA 39-71-1101 (2) (3)).
- Ensure your treating physician completes a Medical Status Form following every office visit, and give a copy to your supervisor. The form is necessary to ensure understanding of work abilities and work restrictions. Always follow all of your treating physician’s directions, at home as well as at work.
- All medical appointments must be kept or immediately rescheduled. Failure to keep appointments may result in termination of workers’ compensation benefits and/or withdrawal of SAW/RTW transitional employment (MCA 39-71-605 (1) (a)).
- Maintain all records and correspondence with regard to your claim.
B. Time Loss
In some cases, employees require ongoing medical care and may require time away from work. Best outcomes are achieved when the affected parties involved work as a team. The makeup of the team will vary but typically includes the injured employee, the home department supervisor (along with other appropriate department personnel), the Claims Coordinator and the claims adjustor. Additionally, the employee’s treating physician and/or managed care representatives may be included, depending on the unique circumstances of each claim. Regular communication throughout the team is especially important in these more complex cases. Indemnity (time loss) benefits may be available to employees medically precluded from working.
- Stay in touch with your supervisor and the Claim Coordinator.
- Compensation may not be paid for the first 32 hours or 4 days loss of wages, whichever is less, that the worker is totally disabled and unable to work because of an injury (MCA 39-71-736 (1) (a)). If the worker is totally disabled and unable to work in any capacity for 21 days or longer, compensation may be paid retroactively to the first day of total wage loss (but you will be required to repay any sick/annual leave if it was used). In some cases, injured workers may incur the 32 hours over the course of several months. Supervisors should use the Work Comp Time Tracking form to help track and verify these hours. Once 32 hours are reached, send the form to the Claims Coordinator.
- If you are temporarily unable to work, you may receive weekly compensation of 66 2/3% of your gross wages at the time of injury, calculated over four pay periods prior to the date of injury, up to the maximum weekly rate determined annually by the MT Department of Labor & Industry (MCA 39-71-701 (3)).
- Supervisors should report all subsequent time away from work due to an injury or illness using the Work Comp Time Tracking form. The form should be completed every two weeks to ensure that the injured employee receives timely benefits. Forward the form to the Claims Coordinator who will review and submit it to the third-party adjusting company.
The 2011 Legislature established SAW/RTW assistance to be made available upon request to help injured employees return to meaningful, productive employment as soon as it is safe to do so following a compensable work-related injury or occupational disease, even if they are not yet able to perform 100% of their regular work duties.
It is the policy of Montana State University to provide assistance to help employees who are predicted to eventually return to their regular position to stay at or return to meaningful, productive employment following an injury or illness. If an injured employee is not capable of immediately returning to his/her regular position, assistance provided may place the employee in a temporary assignment in which the employee’s regular position or hours are modified to accommodate the employee’s temporary physical abilities, or identify alternate work that is better suited to the employee’s temporary physical abilities.
Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work (SAW/RTW) may be available for injured employees that have been released by their treating physician to perform light or modified duty. If working reduced hours they may also receive workers’ compensation benefits for the reduced earnings. The combined earnings are often greater than workers' compensation alone and closer to the worker's average weekly wage.
- If not expressly prohibited by labor agreements, current positions may be temporarily modified to fit the physical limitations of injured employees by modifying workstations, altering specific tasks or working reduced hours.
- MSU departments must make every effort to identify transitional employment that conforms to the physical abilities identified on the injured employee’s most recent MSF. Transitional employment may include part-time work, existing jobs with different physical requirements, or alternated job tasks to accommodate physical limitations.
- Based upon available funding, home departments that can provide job modifications or transitional employment for an employee may be reimbursed from a central pool established for that purpose. Benefits are not included in the reimbursement, only wages. If the home department cannot provide SAW/RTW opportunities the employee may be offered a temporary employment assignment in a host department or with a local non-profit agency. The home department will continue to pay the employee’s full salary and benefits.
- Job modifications or initial transitional employment assignments will only be provided for a specified period of time (with an option to extend), and have a typical duration of six to twelve weeks. Extensions are considered on a case-by-case basis. The injured employee must fully understand that SAW/RTW assignments are temporary, as part of their rehabilitation program, and that they will be expected to return to their time-of-injury job as soon as medically released to do so by their treating physician.
- If the injured employee chooses to decline a temporary transitional employment assignment it may result in loss of workers’ compensation time loss benefits (MCA 39-71-1042 (5) (a)).
- Try to keep a good attitude. Research shows that your emotions play a big role in your recovery.
For additional information with regard to benefits available to an injured worker please see the MSU Self-Funded Workers’ Compensation Program website.
For another excellent resource visit the Montana Department of Labor (DLI) Benefits Summary.
MSU Safety & Risk Management is interested in preventing similar incidents and may conduct additional incident investigation in order to identify and correct any hazards.
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