What Are My Rights if I’m Hurt on the Job in Colorado?

Top 10 Most Common Work Injuries

According to several  leading insurance companies around the country, the top 10 reported worker’s compensation injuries are [1]:

  1. Overexertion injuries resulting from pulling, lifting, pushing, holding, carrying, or throwing heavy objects
  2. Slipping or tripping on or over something lying on the floor
  3. Falling from heights
  4. Reaction injuries like bracing yourself against a fall, slip, or trip.
  5. Objects falling
  6. Walking into doors, walls, cabinets, glass windows, tables, chairs, etc
  7. Vehicle Accidents
  8. Machine Entanglement
  9. Repetitive Motions like carpal tunnel syndrome, or rotator cuff injuries
  10. Violent Acts caused by others in the workplace

Get Help in Colorado to help protect your rights and help you navigate the injury claim and legal process to obtain compensation for your injuries.

Why Is Worker’s Compensation Insurance Important?

Workers’ comp protects both the employer and the employee in the event a work accident occurs. The employee gets medical treatment and wage loss benefits regardless of fault. Employers get protection from civil lawsuits.

OSHA Requires Worker Protection

Every employee is entitled to perform their work in a safe place of employment. The Occupational Safety and Health Act, put into effect in 1970, was meant to prevent workers from being injured or killed. It requires employers to provide working conditions for employees free from danger.

Who Is Required to Have Worker’s Compensation Insurance?

Private employers who regularly have more than three employees must purchase workers’ comp. Even if a private employer only regularly employs one person, if that person works for more than 35 hours per week for longer than 13 weeks during the preceding 52 weeks, they must have worker’s compensation insurance. Households employing domestic help 35 hours or more per week for 13 weeks or longer during the prior 52 weeks must have workers’ compensation insurance. Regardless of how many employees they have on their payroll, all public employers should have workers’ compensation insurance.

Colorado law requires coverage to provide workers’ compensation benefits for:

  • Medical care
  • Temporary disability benefits
  • Permanent disability benefits
  • job displacement benefits
  • Death benefits

If you or a loved one is injured on the job, the employer must:

  • File a claim detailing the incident with the Workers’ Compensation Board.
  • Give you a list of Approved Providers or doctors who will treat you for the injuries you sustained on the job. If you are not happy with the doctor selected by your employer and insurance company, you can petition your employer to choose a different doctor. There are specific periods and procedures to follow to accomplish this.
  • Follow all work restrictions designated by your provider or doctor.
  • If you are unable to perform your regular duties because of your injuries, your employer must find lighter duty within the requirements of your authorized treating doctor.

What if Your Employer Doesn’t Have a Worker’s Comp Policy?

Beware of employers who claim they don’t have workers’ comp insurance. Research shows that this is typically incorrect and used to discourage claims. Uninsured employers are still responsible for paying workers’ compensation benefits and can be personally liable if they do not carry the required worker’s compensation insurance.

If your company does not have this specific insurance, they can be fined up to $250 for every day they remain uninsured [2]. OSHA could even shut the business down. If you’re injured at work and your company does not have worker’s comp insurance, the company must pay the entire claim and an additional 25% penalty. Colorado law will also require all medical injuries be paid by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.

While Workers’ Compensation should compensate you for medical costs and lost wages, however longer-term injuries or lifelong disability may entitle you to additional compensation. Get Help in Colorado to ensure you receive the compensation you are entitled to.

What Can You File a Claim for under Worker’s Compensation?

You can file a claim for worker’s compensation for:

  • Medical expenses, prescriptions, rehabilitation costs
  • Lost earnings
  • Retraining for Employment
  • Partial or Permanent Disability
  • Continuing medical and nursing care
  • Death benefits for the surviving family members

How Much Compensation Will You Receive for Earnings Lost and Medical Costs Due to Your Work Injury?

Lost wages are generally based upon your average salary per week prior to your injury. Compensation checks won’t start until the employee has been injured and out of work for longer than a week. Workers’ comp will usually cover all medical treatment costs.

Types of Worker’s Compensation Settlements

Two basic types of settlements are:

  • Lump-Sum Settlement: If you agree to accept a lump-sum settlement, you can’t make additional claims for benefits. You will be required to agree to release the employer and the insurance company from any further liability.
  • Continuing Benefits: A severe injury where total recovery is impossible could prevent you from returning to resume your old job or work. Continuing payment of benefits could cover the ongoing medical care and expenses.

Legal Liability

According to the OSH Act, employers must eliminate hazards that likely cause death or serious physical harm to employees. Although employers must keep the work environment safe, employers may not always have legal liability for accidents. For example, if an employee’s substance abuse contributed to a workplace accident, the employer may not be held legally responsible for the event. The employer is still responsible for ensuring that the employee receives medical treatment.

Employees are not permitted to sue their employers for workplace injuries because workers’ compensation insurance should cover them. Suppose a person dies due to someone else’s negligence or misconduct. In that case, their survivors may file a wrongful death claim.

In some industries, the legal liability for a job site accident is not always clear.

Construction sites are often quite complex in terms of determining responsibility. The number of different companies that can share some responsibility for working conditions on the site can be significant. There may be contractors and subcontractors, landowners, engineers, equipment parts suppliers, and manufacturers.

Due to the complexities of determining liability in the Colorado legal system, you should work with a personal injury attorney who will help you determine who is responsible for your injury.

Things You Should Do if You Suffer a Workplace Injury:

  1. Notify your employer of your injury at work.  You must notify your employer of a workplace injury immediately in writing. Keep a copy for yourself. Don’t wait too long to tell your employer you were hurt at work or you could lose the right to receive workers’ comp or other benefits. Note that you need to notify your manager or supervisor, not just a coworker.
  2. Seek medical attention right away.  Your employer will designate the doctor you should see initially. Without documentation that you were injured, you will have difficulty getting the compensation you need. If the injury is severe, you may need to go to a medical clinic or a hospital emergency room.
  3. Document the details of your injury. Keep a journal detailing how you feel during your recovery-details matter. If a particular part of your body hurts, note when and how severe the pain is. If the insurance company questions the severity of your injury, your journal will serve as a written record of your work-related injury.
  4. Photograph your injuries. Photographs may be used as evidence because it is visible proof that you sustained a severe work injury and deserve the time and the resources to recover.
  5. File for workers’ compensation. The sooner you submit a worker’s comp claim, the sooner you seek the benefits you need and deserve. Worker’s compensation laws are complex and neglecting to disclose all necessary information in your claim could have disastrous consequences. An experienced Colorado workers’ compensation attorney will help you file an accurate claim and defend any objections from your employer or the insurance company.
  6. If you have been injured and you’re getting medical treatment, make sure you continue to show up to work and do your duties, so long as they are done within the restrictions given by your treating doctor.

Be sure to consult with a personal injury attorney to determine who is at fault for the workplace injury.

How Long do You Have to File for a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

You have four days to report a work injury in Colorado because your employer must report your injury to the Division of Workers’ Compensation within several days of the injury [3]. However, you have two years to formally file a claim with the Colorado workers’ compensation commission if your employer fails to do so. Your workers’ comp lawyer can explain the applicable rules for Colorado.

Denial of a Claim for Workers’ Compensation

The acceptance or denial of your claim is determined by your employer’s workers’ compensation company. Insurance companies will always try to find a way to reduce or deny an employee’s claim. Your employer might raise doubts about your injury, or your employer’s insurance company may raise objections, claiming you’re not hurt, or you sustained your injury outside of work. As a result, your workers’ compensation benefits might be cut off, or you might be forced to return to work too soon.

Should the workers’ comp insurance company deny your claim, you can appeal.

  • A notice of intent for arbitration or mediation will be sent to your employer and their workers’ compensation insurance company. You will have one week to come to an agreement.
  • If no agreement can be reached, a preliminary hearing will be held with the Colorado state worker’s comp division before an administrative judge.
  • If you are still dissatisfied with the decision, you can file a notice to appeal with the state commission within 20 days of the judge’s or arbitrator’s decision. A panel will review the trial proceedings and legal briefs and make a decision.
  • A trial before the Colorado Court of Appeals would be the next step to appeal further.

There is a short period within which to file your appeal. The appeals process varies from state to state. Still, generally, an appeal requires a hearing before an administrative law judge through either the state labor department or workers’ compensation board.

If your workers’ compensation claim is denied, you struggle to obtain benefits, or think you are not receiving fair compensation, you should discuss your case with an experienced work accident attorney.

When you are injured at work, you should not have to worry about whether you can afford medical care. Your injuries may be short-term or debilitating making it impossible to return to work and requiring life-long care. In that case, you and your family should not have to worry about how you will pay the bills and put food on the table. In the State of Colorado, you have rights to workers’ compensation, disability benefits, and compensation for pain and suffering.

Personal injuries can be emotionally draining, physically painful, and confusing for most people. An experienced personal injury attorney, such as Ross Ziev, can make sense of the medical jargon and workers’ comp paperwork, explain everything to you, prepare and file the legal paperwork, and steer you through the legal proceedings to a successful outcome.

Let Help in Colorado fight for your rights, hold negligent employers accountable, and obtain compensation for you and your family. You don’t pay anything out of your own pocket and don’t owe us anything until we win your trial!

Contact Help in Colorado online, call us at (303) 351-2567, or visit our offices at 6795 E. Tennessee Ave. #210, Denver, CO, 80224.

References

[1] http://www.arbill.com/arbill-safety-blog/bid/202877/Top-10-Most-Common-Workplace-Injuries

[2] As of May, 2022. Source: https://codwc.app.box.com/v/rule-3-insurance-coverage1

[3] https://codes.findlaw.com/co/title-8-labor-and-industry/co-rev-st-sect-8-43-102.html