What is Workers’ Compensation and Why is it Important?
Colorado workers’ compensation laws have existed for over 100 years. Workers’ comp laws were enacted to help both the employee and the employer. They allow employees to receive compensation if the employee needs medical attention or is unable to work for a while due to a work-related injury or illness.
Workers’ compensation insurance also protects companies from lawsuits filed by employees who have been hurt at work. If an employee receives workers’ comp, they also agree not to sue their employer.
Colorado’s laws state that if a company has at least one employee, whether they’re part-time or full-time, that company must have workers’ compensation insurance. However, if you’re entitled to compensation for the injury, no matter whose fault it is, certain factors can reduce your benefits. For example, if you ignored any workplace safety procedures or were under the influence of drugs or alcohol while at work, you’re less likely to get all of your potential benefits.
That’s why Bell & Pollock Law, your Denver workers’ compensation attorney, is here to fight for you. We’ll help you understand what your benefits mean, and how you can get the best of them.
What Injuries Does Workers’ Comp Cover?
Workers’ compensation doesn’t cover everything. The injury or illness must be sustained at or due to work environment, and it must be serious enough to impact your work.
If you get the flu from a coworker, that does not count as a work-related illness. It’s not something you get only by working in an open office environment, and there’s no way to prove you contracted the illness at work. However, if someone stores heavy boxes on a high shelf in a warehouse, and they fall on you, workers’ compensation covers the resulting injury.
Workers’ compensation also does not cover injuries sustained when commuting to and from work. While you may get in a car accident while traveling to work, those injuries are not directly related to performing your job and are therefore unrelated to the workplace.
Some types of injuries and illnesses that do allow for workers’ compensation benefits are:
Overexertion is when you work beyond your body’s capabilities. Too much physical strain can result in injury. Because overexertion can be the result of a worker testing their limits, employees don’t always realize they can receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Slip and Fall
According to OSHA, slip and fall injuries are the most common in the workplace. While they sometimes result from negligence, slip and fall accidents are often just that—an accident. There may be a wet floor sign where an employee mopped the hallway, but it still presents a fall risk for passing workers.
Any machine operation in the workplace raises a worker’s risk of injury. Machine malfunctions can create significant hazards and cause severe injury or death.
Falling objects are another of the most commonly sustained workplace injuries. Falling objects can be a box of office supplies or an improperly secured piece of furniture on a truck. The severity of this type of injury varies.
Workers’ compensation for vehicle accidents applies only if you drive a company vehicle. For example, if you drive a truck for a living and you get in an accident on the highway, you’re entitled to benefits.
If the other driver is found to be at fault for the accident, you may also receive damages from them.
Common types of repetitive motion injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, and rotator cuff injury. These injuries appear over time as opposed to having a singular, immediate cause, which sets them apart from other work-related injuries. In this case, the date of diagnosis by a medical professional is the date of injury.
When Are Workers’ Comp Benefits Not Applicable?
Just because a company has workers’ compensation insurance does not mean you get workers’ comp no matter what. There are a few situations where your benefits may be lowered or where you may not qualify for them at all.
If you willfully endanger yourself, you are less likely to receive the full extent of your potential benefits. The Colorado Division of Workers’ Compensation (CDWC) states that a person’s benefits may be affected or revoked if the worker is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or if they refuse to obey a documented safety regulation.
Colorado workers’ comp also doesn’t apply to maintenance work totaling less than $2,000 per year, independent contractors, or part-time domestic employees.
What Should I Do if I Injure Myself at Work?
If you do sustain an injury in the workplace, there are certain procedures you must follow to get workers’ comp benefits. Getting maximum benefits means reporting at the right time and following through with proper documentation procedures.
When Should I Report?
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) states that you must report your injury to your employer immediately. If you’re unable to tell your employer right away, the First Report of Injury must occur within four days of the date of injury. If you delay reporting longer than that, you may not be