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 able to claim workers’ comp.
Once you’ve reported the incident, the company must file an insurance claim within ten days of the First Report. If the company doesn’t file the claim, you can do it yourself up to 2 years after your injury, and your employer cannot take any action against you if you do.
Where Can I Get Treatment?
If your injury is non-life-threatening, your employer can choose the medical facility where you receive treatment. If your employer does choose an Authorized Treating Physician (ATP), Colorado workers’ comp covers those expenses.
If you choose where you get treatment, those expenses may fall to you. If your employer does not give you a list of approved physicians, you can select any physician of your choice.
What if My Claim is Denied?
If, after detailing your injury or illness to the insurance company, they do not approve you for workers’ comp, you can dispute their decision.
You can file an Application for Expedited Hearing within 45 days. In these cases, you are allowed to represent yourself, but we recommend having a Denver workers’ compensation attorney represent you.
Bell & Pollock Law has experience with the workers’ comp regulations that anyone outside of a work comp law firm may not be able to navigate. We handle your documentation, deadlines, and organization, so you have fewer things to worry about.
Do I Need an Attorney?
In Colorado workers’ compensation cases, you will benefit from hiring a personal injury attorney. Workers’ comp cases are complicated and take time. An attorney can spot nuances you may not see, especially if you’re still recovering from your injury.
An attorney adequately represents your case and ensures all details are taken into account by the insurance providers. If you’re unsure of what benefits you are entitled to, an attorney like Bell & Pollock can give you accurate information and do the research for you.
What if I Can’t Return to Work?
Sometimes you won’t be able to return to work after your injury, whether this situation is temporary or permanent. You may get temporary total disability (TTD) or temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits. While the limits of these benefits vary based on individual circumstances, the amount awarded depends on your average weekly wage (AWW).
You can receive TPD benefits if you are unable to return to your job in its full capacity but can work with fewer hours and lowered wages. TTD, on the other hand, means you are completely disabled and cannot return to work at all for a specified period.
While the TPD benefits usually equal two-thirds of the person’s AWW, this amount may differ based on that person’s current wage. If the person’s AWW is higher at a particular time of year owing to a company’s busy season, that person’s TPD benefits will likely be higher, too. Conversely, this trend follows in periods of lower company revenue.
Permanent Partial Disability
If a permanent injury prevents you from returning to the job you held before your injury, you may be able to claim permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. The American Medical Association’s Guides to Evaluating Permanent Impairment will determine the extent of your benefits if you are permanently unable to return to work.
A competent personal injury attorney will help you here. An approved medical professional assigns you an impairment rating, which determines the severity of your injury and how it impacts your ability to return to work. Your attorney can help you understand what the rating means in terms of your workers’ comp benefits and help you decide whether the given rating is appropriate.
Workers might receive an extremity rating if the injuries sustained only affect the arms and legs. Whole person impairment ratings take into account the head, neck, and torso. Whole person ratings also differ from extremity ratings in that they use a formula to find the impairment rating, which includes the person’s age and wage.
Scheduled vs. Non-scheduled Injuries
The Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) contains a schedule to classify specific injuries. A scheduled injury is one listed by the CRS that allows the injured person a specific amount of money based on their injury. Most of the time, injuries to the extremities are scheduled.
Non-scheduled injuries are those which fall outside of the CRS schedule. These include more complicated and variable injuries like trauma, psychological injuries, and hernias. Non-scheduled injuries still rely on certain CRS regulations, but the method of determining compensation is less consistent.
Despite the schedule system, determining compensation isn’t always simple. An experienced work comp law firm can help you understand what you can do to get fair benefits and clarify how scheduling affects you.
Permanent Total Disability
Permanent total disability (PTD) means you are unable to work indefinitely. PTD usually gives you two-thirds of your pay until you turn 65. Determining PTD can be more involved than TTD, as insurance companies are reluctant to determine that a worker is incapable of returning to their job.
Maximum Medical Improvement
Maximum medical improvement (MMI) is the highest point of recovery a worker reaches after they have received medical treatment for their injury. MMI is often the point where a worker may return to their job and collect their full paycheck.
MMI doesn’t always allow a worker to return to work. A worker may not return to the level of ability they had before they were injured. MMI can still mean the worker has a permanent disability. It can also mean that the worker can return to work but in a modified capacity.
Contact Your Denver Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you have been injured in the workplace, consulting a personal injury attorney should be a priority. As a work comp law firm, Bell & Pollock can help you understand what you’re entitled to from your employer. Our lawyers handle all the intricacies and nuances of workers’ comp laws, so you don’t have to.
We know how legal proceedings can worsen injury and illness. We’ll give you the best representation a Denver workers’ compensation attorney can offer. We are experienced negotiators, and we provide you resources to help you navigate the workers’ compensation system. While you recover, we’ll fight for you.