6 tips to protect your vehicle from winter's potholes

When the weather conditions are unfavorable, the best option when it comes to driving is to not drive at all. Read this blog post for six tips on how to protect your vehicle from winter potholes.


When it comes to driving in unfavorable weather conditions, the best option is to not drive at all. However, many drivers don’t have much say in the matter either because of work, an emergency or just a desire to get home before conditions get much worse.

Around the U.S., ice, freezing rain and fluctuating winter temperatures can leave roadways littered with potholes, causing vehicle damage and costly repairs for motorists, says AAA. In some cases, the company added, the impact of poor road conditions can leave a vehicle owner with repair bills ranging from under $250 to more than $1,000 depending on the extent of the damage, the make of the vehicle and the make of the tires.

Potholes tend to form when moisture collects in small holes and cracks in the road surface. As temperatures rise and fall — as they have this winter — the moisture expands and contracts, ultimately resulting in broken up pavement which is then continually impacted by the weight of passing cars.

Cracks in the road

According to a AAA study on pothole damage:

  • Americans spend $3 billion per year on average to repair pothole-related damages to their vehicles.
  • American drivers paid an average of $300 each to repair pothole-related damages to their vehicles in 2017, according to AAA estimates.

The impact of poor road conditions can leave a vehicle owner with repair bills ranging from under $250 to more than $1,000 depending on the extent of the damage, the make of the vehicle and the make of the tires. (Photo: AAA)

Blown tires, dented rims, damaged wheels, dislodged wheel weights, displaced struts, dislocated shock absorbers and damaged exhaust systems are all costly common automotive issues. Other signs include misaligned steering systems and ruptured ball joints.

“Driving over potholes formed by weather extremes and heavy traffic can damage a tire’s internal steel belts and force it ‘to go out of round.’ This negatively impacts your ability to drive comfortably and safely,” Jed Bowles, AAA Blue Grass fleet manager, said in a press release. “Running into a pothole can lead to irregular tire wear and tear, vehicle vibration and imbalance, wobbling and loss of control.”

With this in mind, here are six tips that will help aid motorists in protecting their vehicles from pothole damage, courtesy of AAA.

  1. AAA suggests making sure tires have enough tread and are properly inflated. To check the tread depth, insert a quarter into the tread groove with Washington's head upside down. The tread should cover part of Washington's head. If it doesn't, it's time to start shopping for new tires. When checking tire pressures, refer to the owner's manual to ensure they are inflated to the manufacturer's recommended levels.
  2. Keep an eye out for potholes when driving. Stay focused on the road ahead and don't get distracted. If you need to swerve to avoid a pothole, make sure to check surrounding traffic to avoid causing a collision or endangering nearby pedestrians or cyclists.
  3. If a pothole cannot be avoided, reduce speed, and check the rearview mirror before any abrupt braking, says AAA. Hitting a pothole at higher speeds increases the likelihood of damage to tires, wheels and suspension components.
  4. A puddle of water can disguise a deep pothole. Use care when driving through puddles and treat them as though they may be hiding potholes.
  5. Hitting a pothole can knock a vehicle's wheels out of alignment and affect the steering, says AAA. If a vehicle pulls to the left or right, have the wheel alignment checked by a qualified technician.
  6. Any new or unusual noises or vibrations that appear after hitting a pothole should be inspected immediately by a certified technician. A hard pothole impact can dislodge wheel weights, damage a tire or wheel, and bend or even break suspension components, says AAA.

SOURCE: Jacob, D. (12 February 2019) "6 tips to protect your vehicle from winter's potholes" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2019/02/12/6-tips-to-protect-your-vehicle-from-winters-potholes/


Interact Sensitively with Employees Addicted to Opioids

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 21-29 percent of patients who are prescribed opioids for pain will end up misusing them. Read this blog post to learn more.


Employees who abuse opioids often are given a second chance by their employers. But well-meaning employers could wind up being sued for discriminating against those workers in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if they don't handle the situation very carefully.

Opioid addiction has been rampant in the U.S. for some time. More than three out of five drug overdose deaths last year involved an opioid, and overdoses rose 70 percent in the 12 months ending September 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So what can HR professionals do about it? If a worker admits to the problem, the path is fairly clear. But if the employer merely suspects that an employee is addicted to prescription pain relievers but has no real proof, the employee should be treated like any other employee who is having attendance or performance issues, said Kathryn Russo, an attorney with Jackson Lewis in Melville, N.Y.

An employer should never accuse someone of having an addiction, because if the employer is wrong, the accusation could lead to an ADA claim, Russo cautioned. Although current drug use isn't considered an ADA disability, a history of drug addiction is. Moreover, someone using prescription drugs might have an underlying condition covered by the ADA.

Statistics on opioid use

If an employee admits to opioid abuse, or the problem is discovered through drug testing, the employer should discuss it with the employee to determine if he or she needs a reasonable accommodation, such as leave to obtain treatment, Russo said. The illegal use of drugs need not be tolerated at work, she added.

Reasonably accommodate the employee so long as there's no direct threat to the health and safety of himself or herself, or others, recommended Nancy Delogu, an attorney with Littler in Washington, D.C.

Drug Testing

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has opined that employers may ask about an employee's use of prescribed medicine or conduct a drug test to determine such use only if the employer has reasonable suspicion that its use will interfere with the employee's ability to perform the job's essential functions or will pose a direct threat.

Many employers are expanding their drug-testing panels to include semisynthetic opioids such as hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone and oxymorphone, in addition to traditional opioids such as heroin, codeine and morphine, Russo said. This is lawful in most states as long as the employer does not take adverse employment actions when drugs are used legally, she noted, which is why an employer should use a medical review officer in the drug-testing process. If the medical review officer concludes that the positive test result is the result of lawful drug use, the result is reported to the employer as negative.

Sometimes an employer will say it has reasonable suspicion that the employee came to work impaired by drug use and is considering a mandatory drug test. At that point, some employees will say the drug test would be positive and the test consequently is not necessary.

Discussions with Employees

If there are performance problems and the employee has admitted to opioid addiction, some employers tell employees that they can remain employed so long as they go through inpatient treatment. Delogu discourages that approach. Employers aren't workers' doctors, so they shouldn't be deciding whether someone needs a treatment program, she explained.

But if someone voluntarily seeks to enter an addiction-recovery program, that person may have legal protections under state law, said Wendy Lane, an attorney with Greenberg Glusker in Los Angeles. For example, California has a law requiring employers with 25 or more employees to reasonably accommodate alcohol and drug rehabilitation.

Delogu recommended that employers that believe there is a problem with substance abuse ask if the addicted employee needs assistance from the employee assistance program.

An employer can require that an employee who has violated a policy be evaluated by a substance abuse professional and complete treatment prescribed for them, without dictating what that treatment will be, she said. The employer may choose to forgo disciplinary action if an employee agrees to these terms and signs an agreement to this effect. The employer then would not have to be informed about the person's decided course of treatment, whether inpatient, outpatient or no treatment at all, she said. The employee typically will be subjected to follow-up drug testing to make sure he or she hasn't resumed the use of illegal drugs.

Many employers are willing to give employees with performance problems resulting from opioid addiction a second chance, she noted.

SOURCE: Smith, A. (1 November 2018) "Interact Sensitively with Employees Addicted to Opioids" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/Pages/employees-addicted-to-opioids.aspx


When is a Workers’ Compensation Claim Compensable?

Carefully evaluating workers’ compensation claims is crucial in helping your company save money and prevent fraud. Workers’ compensation is simply a form of insurance that offers employees medical coverage in the event they are injured during a work-related function. Depending on the state of residence, it may also give compensation for disabilities sustained or cover rehabilitation costs so the employee can return to the workplace quickly and smoothly.

Compensable workers’ compensation claims have specific characteristics that will help you determine if and when an injury is covered.

Workers’ compensation is crucial to protecting employees, but it is often a source of contention among employers because it comes with considerable gray areas. When is a claim compensable? How do we identify a fraudulent claim? How do we report a claim, and should we report all workplace injuries no matter how serious? This piece is designed to help you determine when—and if—an injury is covered by workers’ compensation.

Requirements

The claim must meet all five of these requirements in order to be compensable:

Happened to One of Your Employees

The first requirement is in place to ensure it is your employee filing the claim, not an independent contractor or vendor who works for themselves or a third party. Even if the incident occurs on your property, unless it is someone who works directly for you, the claim is not compensable.

Resulted in an Injury or Illness

Injury is not the only thing that can potentially be covered by workers’ compensation. Illnesses could also qualify as a compensable claim, but only if they are related directly to the job. The illness also must be caused directly by the working conditions to be covered in a workers’ compensation policy. For example, a miner’s contraction of black lung would be compensable in all states. However, an employee in an office with a co-worker who smokes would not be eligible for workers’ compensation for treatment of illness due to secondhand smoke.

Arose Out of Employment

This requirement means there must be a direct connection between the injury and the desire or attempt to further the employer’s business. If the employer benefits in some way, whether monetarily or otherwise, from the employee’s activity, then the claim meets this qualification.

Occurred in the Course and Scope of Employment

The employee must be at work when the injury occurs. This includes any place or location mandated or expected by the employer. So when an injury occurs at the employee’s physical everyday work site, that employee must prove he or she was injured while actively engaging in the furtherance of the employer’s business. There is a special provision called the “coming and going rule,” which maintains that benefits are denied for injuries received when traveling to or from work. Additionally, injuries arising out of transit from one work site to another, for instance when traveling to visit clients, are compensable. This provision also requires that the actions leading to the injury of the employee in question be prompted by the aspiration to further the employer’s business interests.

Resulted in Impairment and/or Lost Wages

The injury or illness in question must cause the employee to be impaired in some way and lose wages from not being able to complete his or her tasks completely. It is also a compensable incident if the injury or illness results in impairment but without lost wages, or vice versa.

Identifying a Fraudulent Claim

Studies commonly show that roughly 90 percent of all workers’ compensation claims filed are legitimate. However, it is still important as an employer to watch for these red flags that may indicate a fraudulent claim:

  • Filing multiple claims
  • Longer absences than anticipated by the employee, combined with an unwillingness to return to work
  • Unwillingness to be assigned to other, lighter jobs within the company or to complete partial duties
  • Constantly missing medical appointments
  • Employee will not provide date, time or location of the incident that caused injury
  • Employee has no recollection of services provided for related medical bills
  • Lack of witnesses to an accident or incident
  • Employee cannot produce specific information about the nature of the injury
  • Employee has a history of short-term employment

If any of these red flags occur, it by no means makes the claim automatically fraudulent. These are simply guidelines to keep employers proactively evaluating the legitimacy of a workers’ compensation claim.

Newsletter Provided by: Hierl's Property & Casualty Experts

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