Denver, Colorado, is home to one of the west’s fastest-growing economies. Denver’s economy is a well-rounded mix of industrial, construction, and technological businesses. Unfortunately, with the growth of businesses, workplace injuries are a common occurrence across the city. These workplace injuries can have devastating effects on workers and families. Colorado’s workers’ compensation system can be accessed by injured workers to relieve some of the financial stress, but the system can be confusing and complex.
What is Denver Workers’ Compensation?
Denver workers’ compensation is a Colorado-wide system that is set up to pay certain benefits when workers are injured on the job. Under Colorado’s workers’ compensation system, most employers are required to purchase insurance to cover workers’ compensation claims. Once an injured worker enters into Colorado workers’ compensation, they may be eligible for a number of different benefits.
Injured workers can receive payments for medical care that is reasonable and necessary for the injury or illness. The workers’ compensation system ensures there are no copays or deductibles associated with medical care. Additionally, medical care includes payment for devices such as crutches or wheelchairs if they are reasonably needed to heal the injury.
Injured workers in Denver can also receive vocational rehabilitation services. These services are designed to assist the injured worker in overcoming the injury and re-entering the workforce. Vocational rehabilitation services are more individualized for each injured worker and include various exercises, stretching, and task-related movements.
Temporary lost wages can be awarded to injured workers while they are receiving treatment for their injuries. Temporary lost wages can be paid even when the injured worker is only temporarily partially disabled. Partial disability is when the injured worker can work during recovery but is earning less than what they were capable of earning prior to the accident.
Once the injured worker reaches maximum medical improvement (“MMI”), they may be entitled to permanent lost wages. MMI is when the injured worker is deemed to be medically stable, and further medical care is not likely to improve the situation. The permanent lost wages are determined by the type and severity of the permanent loss.
If death results from a workplace accident, Colorado law allows for certain death benefits to be paid to the dependents of the deceased worker. Dependents are typically a spouse or relative who the deceased worker financially supported at the time of death. The worker’s dependents are determined by (1) their relationship and (2) actual dependency upon the worker at the time of injury/death.
Do I Need an Attorney to Help me with my Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Deciding if you need a Denver workers’ compensation lawyer can be a difficult decision. At Burnham Law, we take the difficulty out of the decision by providing free case consultations and case reviews. No matter how minor the injury seems, it is ideal to have the case reviewed by an attorney. By having an attorney evaluate the case, the injured will then have a better understanding of whether the insurance company is paying the proper amount of lost wages, providing all benefits required by law, and progressing the case at the proper speed.
Another reason to have an attorney review the case is to determine if there is a potential third-party claim. In Colorado, if a third party was liable for the accident, the injured may recover in both workers’ compensation and personal injury (civil lawsuit). This can be important to the injured worker because workers’ compensation limits or excludes certain types of damages, such as pain and suffering, while a personal injury lawsuit allows for such damages.
The more serious the injury, the more likely the injured will need an attorney. Meeting deadlines, organizing evidence, and requesting benefits can be difficult even for the healthiest person, let alone when healing from a serious injury. In the more serious cases, the insurance company may try to pay as little as possible as their interest is in their profits, not the injured worker. The insurance company may seek to limit benefits for any questionable aspect of the case, such as the extent of the injury, need for health care, missed deadlines, and lack of accident witnesses. When the insurance company tries to limit benefits, an attorney may build a defense to rectify the case’s weaknesses and ensure the injured receives maximum benefits.
Can I Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits if the Accident was my Fault?
Colorado workers’ compensation is a “no-fault” system. This means that when a Colorado employee gets injured on the job and properly files a workers’ compensation claim, they may receive benefits despite who was at fault for the injury. Unlike a personal injury lawsuit where fault must be proven, in a Colorado workers’ compensation case, the injured does not need to prove who was at fault. If the injury happened at work, the employer must cover the accident through their workers’ compensation insurance policy.
In exchange for receiving compensation under the no-fault system, the injured worker cannot sue the employer under a traditional injury lawsuit (except for limited circumstances). The exclusive remedy against the employer is through the workers’ compensation system (with some exceptions).
The policy behind having a no-fault system is that despite who is at fault, workers are able to quickly receive medical care and benefits. At the same time, employers are not subjected to negligence lawsuits in civil court.
Despite the no-fault system, there are still situations where the employee’s actions can cause a limitation of their benefits. Some of these limited circumstances are:
- When an employee fails to use the safety equipment provided by the employer.
- When an employee willfully fails to obey a reasonable rule adopted by the employer for the safety of the employee.
- When an employee willfully misleads the employer concerning the employee’s physical ability to perform a job.
- When an employee is injured while certain unprescribed controlled substance(s) were in their blood system, including cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, and other substances defined by Colorado law.
At Burnham Law, we believe that injured workers are entitled to heal from their injuries without the stress of finances. We understand that even the shortest amount of time without pay can be devastating for our clients. At Burnham Law, we work to quickly and efficiently set up temporary benefits to ease the financial stress and then work on the long-term benefit so that our clients have peace of mind that they and their families will not be financially devastated by the accident.