(c) 2010-2024 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

The Predicted Active Hurricane Season Stirs Trouble

An active hurricane season can significantly impact the workers' compensation system in terms of claims and losses. 

Researchers at Colorado State University issued an ominous updated report from a detailed forecast for the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season. Here are the key points:

  1. The forecast predicts an extremely active hurricane season for 2024, with 25 named storms, 12 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes expected.
  2. Factors contributing to this forecast include:
    • Near-record warm sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Main Development Region
    • Anticipated cool neutral ENSO or La NiƱa conditions during peak hurricane season
    • Weaker than normal trade winds in the tropical Atlantic
  3. The forecast uses multiple prediction methods, including statistical models, statistical/dynamical hybrid models, and analog years.
  4. Hurricane Beryl, an early and intense hurricane in 2024, is seen as a potential harbinger of a very active season.
  5. The probability of major hurricane landfalls along the U.S. coastline and in the Caribbean is predicted to be well above average.

Here's an overview of how this could play out for the workers' compensation system:

  1. Increased claim frequency:
  • More workers may be injured during storm preparation, evacuation, and post-storm cleanup and recovery efforts.
  • Construction and utility workers face higher risks during the rebuilding phases.
  • First responders may experience more injuries and illnesses due to increased workload and hazardous conditions.
  1. Types of claims:
  • Slip and fall injuries due to wet or debris-covered surfaces
  • Injuries from falling objects or collapsed structures
  • Electrical injuries from downed power lines or damaged equipment
  • Respiratory issues from mold exposure in flooded buildings
  • Heat-related illnesses for workers in areas without power
  • Infections from exposure to contaminated flood waters
  • Musculoskeletal injuries from heavy lifting during cleanup
  1. Longer claim duration:
  • Medical treatment may be delayed due to damaged infrastructure or overwhelmed healthcare facilities.
  • Return-to-work programs might be disrupted if businesses are closed or damaged.
  1. Higher claim severity:
  • More severe injuries may occur due to hazardous conditions.
  • Complications from injuries could increase due to delayed treatment.
  1. Mental health claims:
  • PTSD, anxiety, and depression claims may increase among workers exposed to traumatic events during hurricanes.
  1. Occupational disease claims:
  • Long-term exposure to mold, chemicals, or other hazards during recovery efforts could lead to occupational disease claims.
  1. Staffing challenges:
  • Claims adjusters may face increased workloads, potentially leading to delays in claim processing.
  • A shortage of medical providers in affected areas might impact treatment and return-to-work timelines.
  1. Cost increases:
  • Medical costs may rise due to supply chain disruptions and increased demand for healthcare services.
  • Indemnity payments could increase due to longer periods of disability.
  1. Coverage disputes:
  • There may be questions about whether injuries are work-related, especially for remote workers or those injured during evacuation.
  1. Second injury claims:
  • Workers with pre-existing conditions may be more susceptible to injury or illness in post-hurricane conditions.
  1. Fraud potential:
  • Unfortunately, disasters can sometimes lead to increased fraudulent claims, requiring more vigilant investigation.
  1. Premium impacts:
  • Increased losses may lead to higher workers' compensation premiums in affected areas in subsequent years.
  1. Industry-specific impacts:
  • Certain industries like construction, utilities, and emergency services may see disproportionate increases in claims.
  1. Geographic considerations:
  • Coastal areas and regions more prone to hurricane impacts will likely see greater effects on their workers' compensation systems.

To mitigate these impacts, employers and insurers in hurricane-prone areas should focus on:

  • Robust hurricane preparedness plans
  • Enhanced safety training for workers involved in storm preparation and recovery
  • Proactive claims management strategies
  • Partnerships with healthcare providers for efficient treatment and return-to-work programs
  • Mental health support for affected workers
  • Careful documentation and investigation of claims to prevent fraud

By anticipating these potential impacts, stakeholders in the workers' compensation system can better prepare for and respond to the challenges posed by an active hurricane season.

Recommended Citation: Gelman, Jon L.,   The Predicted Active Hurricane Season Stirs Trouble, (07/10/2024)




*Jon L. Gelman of Wayne, NJ, is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon Gelman  1.973.696.7900 
 has represented injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational illnesses and diseases.

Blog: Workers' Compensation

LinkedIn: JonGelman

LinkedIn Group: Injured Workers Law & Advocacy Group

Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" West-Thomson-Reuters

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© 2024 Jon L Gelman. All rights reserved.

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