workers compensation laws in Colorado

Workers' comp laws are meant to protect anyone who is injured while on the job. The types of injuries include bodily injury, head injury, falls, chemical exposure, amputations, and more. While it may seem like receiving payment for your medical bills and lost wages should be easy, the opposite is often true. Therefore understanding these laws and finding a qualified personal injury attorney is critical to being awarded fair compensation for your injuries.

In Colorado, there are approximately 112 work-related deaths every year and thousands of injuries or illnesses attributed to work-related exposures.

Frequently disputes arise over the severity of the injury, length of time necessary for recovery, and whether or not the injury is work-related. Keep reading to learn about Colorado laws regarding workers’ compensation and steps to take following an injury.

Steps to Take Following an Injury at Work

Man falling off of a ladder while drill in hand while at work.

When you suffer any type of injury at work you need to contact your employer as soon as possible. This must be done in writing within four (4) days following your injury. Documentation of your notification will be important should a dispute arise.

Call 911, go to the emergency room or obtain treatment from the medical provider your employer specifies. Keep copies of all medical records. This includes contact information for all providers and all costs you incur including:

  • Loss of time from work
  • Medical expenses
  • Mileage to and from all doctor appointments and rehabilitation appointments

workers’ compensation attorney will be able to explain what you are legally entitled to. They will be knowledgeable about workers’ compensation and Colorado laws for handling negotiations, settlement, and trial.

Colorado Laws and Supreme Court Rulings

On April 12, 2021, the Colorado Supreme Court issued two opinions regarding personal injury lawsuits. This affects the ability of a personal injury plaintiff to claim the full amount of billing from their health care providers as damages. The plaintiff may claim the full amount charged but may not provide the amount their insurance provider paid at trial.

Existing Law

Colorado law states that in a case regarding the death or injury of a person or property the court may reduce the amount of damages the jury awards. This reduction is based on the amount the person or their estate receives in compensation for the injury pursuant to C.R.S. § 13-21-111.6. The adjustment is made by the court after the jury issues its verdict.

The exception is any payments made by a Plaintiff’s private health insurer. Any type of benefit the Plaintiff buys or receives through their employer is covered by the contract exception as set forth in Wal-Mart Stores v. Cossgrove, 276 P. 3d 562, 565 (2012) and does not reduce or offset the Plaintiff’s award. This means that you may recover the cost of billed medical expenses without any reduction or offset.

New Ruling

In the most recent cases of Delta Airlines Inc. v. Scholle, No. 19SC546 (April 12, 2021) and Gill v. WaltzNo. 19SA174, (April 12, 2021) court opinions extinguish the ability of a plaintiff employee to recover damages for past expenses. This is because the employee is not allowed to present evidence of billed or paid medical expenses. With no presentation of evidence, the ability to recover damages is eliminated and the collateral rule is not implicated.

What this means is if the workers’ compensation insurer reaches a settlement the plaintiff may not be able to present medical expenses at trial. Because a workers’ compensation carrier usually pays less than the billed amounts, reaching a settlement may save the insurers a significant amount of money. These rulings benefit the defendant because it prevents exposure to the amount of damages and may lower the amount of plaintiff’s award at trial.

Workers Compensation Laws and Regulations

The majority of employees in the United States have workers’ compensation coverage. The exception is those who are federal employees and some small private-sector employees. This includes sole proprietors, partners, and LLC members.

Others who do not have workers' comp coverage include farmworkers and domestic servants where there are less than two employees. Railroad and maritime workers who have protection under federal law do not have workers' compensation.

With the exception of Texas, every state has a mandatory workers’ compensation program. These programs are not a requirement of the federal government. There is no federal oversight, nor any federal mandates for providing a workers’ compensation program.

Each state establishes its own rules on damages recovery when an employee suffers an injury or death at work. Here are some important things to know about Colorado workers’ compensation laws.

Limited-Time to Submit a Claim

When you suffer an injury at work in Colorado you must notify your employer in writing within four (4) days of the injury. Your employer must then file a claim with their workers’ compensation provider within ten (10) days. If you have gone beyond this window of time without filing a claim, it is advisable you contact a workers’ compensation attorney for assistance.

“No-Fault” Workers’ Compensation

When an employee suffers an injury at work, the fault or reason for the injury is not a factor. This no-fault system works to the benefit of both the employee and employer because compensation is paid regardless of the circumstances surrounding the injury. 

If the workers’ compensation provider makes a determination that the employee’s actions in some way were a contributing factor to their injury, their overall benefits may be reduced.

Small Businesses Must Have Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Every business that has one (1) employee or more must have a policy for workers’ compensation insurance.

Happy business owner that complies with workers' comp laws, providing workers compensation to her employees.

This rule applies to both part-time and full-time employees. The only exceptions to this rule are:

  • Drivers who work for a contract carrier
  • Independent contractors who work outside the control or direction of the business
  • Real estate brokers and agents who receive pay by commission
  • Private part-time domestic and maintenance workers or repair workers
  • Those who perform casual maintenance or repair work at a business making less than $2,000 per calendar year

Members of LLCs and corporate officers who have at least a 10% interest in the business may exclude themselves from coverage. Business partners and sole proprietors also have an exclusion because they are not employees.

As a sole proprietor, you may elect for self-coverage. This would provide you with compensation for lost wages and other benefits in the event you suffer a work-related injury. The high cost of medical care makes this a smart decision for financial security.

Non-Compliance With Workers’ Comp Laws

If an employer fails to carry workers’ compensation insurance they may receive a cease and desist order against their business. This requires them to stop business operations until they have insurance.

The business may be subject to fines of up to $250 for every day they do not have proper coverage. In some circumstances, this fine may increase to $500 per day. Even more detrimental to the business, is if a workers’ compensation claim reaches a settlement prior to the penalty, the benefits payable to the employee may increase by 50% for failure to maintain insurance.

Receive Your Full Workers’ Compensation Benefits

When you suffer an injury at work, you need to concentrate on your recovery, not workers’ comp laws. The law office of Elkus & Sisson P.C. has a team of workers’ compensation and personal injury attorneys who have a proven track record of success. Their knowledge will ensure you receive all the compensation you deserve.

Contact Elkus & Sisson P.C. at (303) 567-7981 to schedule a consultation today.