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Healthy Concern Don't let workers' comp fraud cripple your business.

By Steven C. Bahls

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Workers' compensation fraud costs the insurance industry $5billion every year, according to the National Insurance CrimeBureau in Palos Hills, Illinois, an organization that investigatesinsurance fraud. "The hidden cost of workers' compensationfraud is the higher premiums and the way it slows down the processfor everyone," says J.C. Benton of the state-run Ohio Bureauof Workers' Compensation Fraud Division in Columbus. Bentonnotes that of all workers' compensation claims, 5 percent to 15percent contain some element of fraud.

"Fraud is pervasive, whether from faking an injury orexaggerating the extent of an injury," agrees Gregory Blaies,an attorney in Ft. Worth, Texas, who defends employers andinsurance carriers in workers' compensation cases. Blaies hasseen cases of people living off the system who, by age 30, haveracked up a dozen claims with a dozen different employers. Lowerback problems and other soft tissue damage is easy to fake anddifficult to disprove. Most doctors are sympathetic to patients whoappear to be in pain and are more inclined to prescribe time offfrom work than to declare there's nothing wrong and risk amalpractice suit should an injury worsen.

Although your business could be the target of a scam artist whotakes a job intending to fake an injury, a problem is more likelyto come from a worker who gets hurt playing football on Sunday andfiles a claim alleging injury at work Monday morning. Even morecommon, Blaies asserts, is the worker who actually is injured atwork but exaggerates the extent of the injury. After being home forseveral weeks drawing disability pay, many employees adjust totheir new lives and find it easier than working.

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