Why Do You Need a Denver Worker's Compensation Lawyer?
Many people work dangerous jobs that present an inherent risk of injury, such as the construction field or in an industrial environment. Others work in fields that do not seem to pose imminent dangers. However, anyone can sustain an injury on the job. From falling in an office to getting into a car accident when running errands for your boss, work injuries can happen at any time to any employee. Fortunately, a Denver workers’ compensation attorney can help.
If you or a loved one has been hurt while performing job-related duties, Colorado law entitles you to workers’ compensation benefits. Contact Levine Law today to learn more about the benefits available to you and for help in obtaining the full amount of money available to you under the law.
Jordan S. LevineFounding Partner
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Obtain the Workers’ Compensation You Deserve for Job-Related Injuries in Denver
Under Colorado workers’ compensation law, a worker who suffers an injury while performing any required job duty is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Covered injuries include injuries sustained on the job site and injuries sustained off-site, as long as the worker is fulfilling a work requirement – even if the particular task the worker is performing does not sound like “work”. For example, a worker attending a required work retreat is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if he or she is injured during the retreat. A worker injured while attending a voluntary Christmas party, however, may not be entitled to benefits because attending the party was not a job requirement.
When an employee suffers a work injury, he or she is not required to prove negligence in order to file a workers’ compensation claim. In fact, in some cases, a worker may have performed a careless act that caused the injury and may still be entitled to benefits, as long as the employee was not violating company policy and was not intoxicated or on drugs while at work.
Who is Eligible for Worker’s Compensation in Colorado?
Employees can obtain workers’ compensation benefits not just for accidents, but also for other types of injuries that develop as a direct result of doing a job. For example, if a worker is exposed to toxins at work and develops cancer, black lung, or other health problems due to the exposure, then the worker can be compensated for his work-related illness. An employee who suffers from repetitive stress injuries can also file a workers’ compensation claim.
Almost all workers, even remote workers, are covered for benefits, and the definition of work injury is broad. Most employees who get hurt on the job in Colorado can and should make a claim with the help of an experienced Denver workers’ compensation attorney.
Workers’ compensation insurance covers most Colorado workers who are employees. However, some employees are not covered. These include:
- Workers who perform certain types of casual maintenance or repair work that totals under $2,000 per calendar year.
- Workers who do certain types of domestic work, maintenance, or repair work for private homeowners part-time.
- Licensed real estate agents and brokers who work on commission.
- Drivers who have lease agreements with a common carrier or a contract carrier.
- Anyone who volunteers time or services with a ski area operator.
- Workers who provide host home services as part of residential services and support.
- Federal and railroad employees (although federal workers’ compensation rules may apply).
- Independent contractors, including those who perform specific for-hire transportation jobs.
Not every type of non-covered employee is listed here. Talk to a Denver workers’ compensation attorney for a more complete list.
Who is an “independent contractor”?
An “independent contractor” is a worker who makes an agreement to complete a specific project with a set price. Although some independent contractors may work on-site with employees, the employer may not control the means or method of their work performance. Generally speaking, an employer pays an independent contractor for a certain product or result and may only control that product or result; the employer may not control when, where, or how the independent contractor does the work.
Courts weigh several factors when determining who is an independent contractor for the purposes of Colorado workers’ compensation laws. Sometimes, the distinction is easy to make; in other cases, determining whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee can be very difficult.
In Colorado, “employees” may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, but “independent contractors” generally are not entitled to benefits, unless they have purchased their own workers’ compensation insurance. Workers who are injured on the job and don’t know which category they belong to should consult a Denver workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible after an injury.
Understanding Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Colorado
Workers injured on the job are often confused about which benefits they may be entitled to and how to claim those benefits. Both employers and their workers’ compensation insurers want to keep their costs low, so they are often not at all helpful when it comes to getting employees fair treatment after a workplace injury or illness. Fortunately, Denver workers’ compensation lawyers are experienced at helping employees receive the full benefits to which they are entitled.
Your employer is required to give you a list of designated providers you can go to for medical care. You choose one doctor from the list, and that doctor becomes your authorized treating physician (ATP). Your ATP may refer you to other doctors including specialists, but your ATP will maintain overall responsibility for your treatment. You have the ability to change to another doctor on the designated provider list, but there may be certain procedures you need to follow first, depending on your case and the timing of your change.
The costs for medical care under your ATP and any emergency care needed after the injury should be covered by workers’ compensation insurance until you reach the point of Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). That is the stage where your doctor determines that additional treatment will not aid your recovery, and that they have essentially done all they can do.
If your ATP determines that your injury has caused long-term impairment (loss of function) to the way your body functions, then you will receive an impairment rating. This rating will be used to calculate permanent disability amounts.
Insurers and employers may deny you benefits and doctors may issue an impairment rating that does not accurately reflect your loss of function. Denver workers’ compensation lawyers frequently need to challenge decisions to ensure that clients get the full benefits they deserve.
Temporary Partial Disability
If you are allowed to return to work after your injury but you are not able to work your usual number of hours because of your injury or treatment for your injury, you are entitled to receive temporary partial disability wage benefits. The amount you receive is calculated based on the difference between your earnings after the injury and what your earnings would have been if you hadn’t been hurt.
It is important to continue to attend scheduled medical appointments during this time because if you miss an appointment, your benefits can be suspended.
Temporary partial disability benefits are supposed to continue until you are given a release to return to work or until the doctor says you’ve reached your level of maximum medical improvement(MMI).
Temporary Total Disability
When your treating physician says you cannot work or puts restrictions on your work that your employer can’t accommodate, then you should receive temporary total disability wage benefits. If you return to work but have trouble performing job duties, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment recommends that you contact your doctor immediately. If you stop working without approval from your doctor, you may not be eligible to receive benefits for the time lost from work.
Your temporary total disability benefits should equal 2/3 of your average weekly wage, and they should be paid every two weeks. Denver workers’ compensation lawyers can assist if you do not receive the wage benefits appropriate to your situation.
Permanent Partial Disability
After your doctor decides that you have reached your MMI level, if your body has some degree of lost function that has not healed, you will be assigned an impairment rating. For an impairment that affects specific body parts only, such as a hand, an eye, or a leg, you would receive an award for a “scheduled” impairment. The state keeps a schedule of compensation amounts for specific body parts. So if your hand suffered 25% impairment of function, you would receive 25% of the scheduled amount.
When the doctor determines that your permanent impairment affects the whole body, such as a loss of function in the lungs, spine, or brain function, you would receive an award for a non-scheduled (total body) impairment. The amount could be paid in a lump sum, spread out over multiple payments, or paid as a combination of the two.
Permanent Total Disability
If the whole body impairment or another injury will prevent you from working for the remainder of your life, you should receive permanent total disability payments based on 2/3 of your average wage for the rest of your life.
Our Denver Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Outlines Your Deadlines & What to Expect During the Process
There are certain procedural deadlines that must be adhered to by law. As soon as you are injured, in addition to seeking medical care, you must notify your employer immediately. Colorado law requires you to notify your employer in writing within 4 working days of an injury. If you are physically or mentally unable to file a written report within the 4 days, it may be filed on your behalf by another person who has notice of your injury.
Once your employer receives notice of your injury, they have 10 days to file a report of the injury (“Employer’s First Report of Injury”) with its insurer. This will start your workers’ compensation claim. The employer should also provide you with its designated medical provider list should it choose to designate a provider. That physician becomes your authorized treating physician for purposes of the injury.
The process will proceed as follows:
- If you have suffered an injury that caused you to lose more than 3 days or 3 shifts at work, the insurer has 20 days from the date the Employer’s First Report of Injury is filed to notify you whether the claim is accepted and benefits will be paid. The decision will be either an Admission of Liability or a denial (“Notice of Contest”).
- If you haven’t missed 3 days of work because of your injury, no written decision is required from the insurer.
- If you have missed more than 3 days or 3 shifts of work, you should also be eligible to receive wage replacement (compensation) benefits if the doctor has taken you off work as a result of your injury.
- If the insurer denies your claim and you believe that it has been denied in error, you may file an application for an expedited hearing within 45 days of the date of the mailing of the Notice of Contest.
How Much Can I Recover Under Colorado Workers’ Compensation Laws?
Your benefits will equal two-thirds of the average weekly wage (AWW) that you were receiving on the date of your injury, up to the maximum amount allowed by law. The AWW includes gross wages or salary, commissions, overtime, tips and per diem payments (that were reported to the IRS), reasonable board, the value of rent, housing and lodging, and the cost of continuing the employer’s group health insurance plan.
While workers’ comp is one source of financial recovery for a job-related injury, it is not the only way to obtain financial compensation for an injury you suffered on the job. You may be able to recover full compensation for negligence by a third party or based on premises liability.
Workers’ Compensation Settlements – Should I Take the Deal?
No, not before consulting with a Denver workplace accident lawyer. In some situations the insurer handling your employer’s workers’ compensation benefits program may offer to settle your claim, rather than continuing to pay out regular benefits over an extended period of time. These offers are common in situations involving serious injuries that are likely to require extensive medical care and/or prevent the injured person from returning to work. Do not make this important decision alone.
Anyone who has been injured or contracted an illness on the job in Colorado should seek the advice of a Denver workers compensation lawyer before considering a settlement or accepting a deal. Settlement agreements are binding contracts that shield the employer and insurer from any additional responsibility for your injuries. There is no turning back after you have signed the agreement.
Colorado Workers’ Compensation Settlements: Lump Sum Payments vs. Annuities
Settlements are generally offered in two forms: as lump sum payments or as structured annuities. Lump sum payments are full and final payments in one single shot, while structured payouts offer a predetermined amount at regular intervals (weekly, monthly, annually).
The upside to a lump sum payment is that you get all of the money right away to invest as you see fit. The downside is that you get all of the money right away, regardless of whether your medical needs and expenses change over time. Although lump sum payments are generally not taxed, any earnings on the money once it is invested is subject to tax withholdings.
Structured settlements, on the other hand, offer a little more stability because the injured person and his or her family know that the payments will be made at a designated interval. They also have tax benefits: The money is invested on the front-end and taxed before you receive your regular payments.
FAQs About Denver Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Do I need to pay state or federal taxes on my wage benefits?
No, workers’ compensation benefits are not taxable. However, they can reduce the amount of benefits you receive from other sources such as unemployment benefits and Social Security Disability benefits. You should inform your benefits adjuster of other benefits you receive.
Can my employer retaliate against me for filing a worker’s compensation claim?
Your employer is not allowed to take negative action, such as firing you, in retaliation for exercising your right to seek workers’ compensation. However, you could lose or be prevented from receiving benefits if your employer can prove wrongdoing such as violation of a safety rule, misleading your employer about your qualifications, or testing positive for controlled substances.
Can I be reimbursed for other expenses besides doctor’s visits and lost wages?
Workers’ compensation does not provide compensation for many losses covered in a personal injury lawsuit such as pain and suffering. However, injured workers can receive reimbursement for mileage and parking associated with medical care, medications, and supplies.
What should I do if my employer denied my workers’ compensation claim?
If an employer or insurance company denies a claim or wrongfully discontinues benefits, it is a good idea to talk to experienced Denver workers’ compensation lawyers who can review your options and pursue fair treatment. You may need to request a hearing to have a judge make a forma decision on your benefits. Knowledgeable attorneys can ensure that their clients have the right documentation to demonstrate their eligibility so they receive full and fair benefits.
Am I Eligible for Benefits if I Fall at Work?
Whether you fell down a flight of stairs, slipped on a spill, fell from a ladder or scaffolding, or suffered a serious injury in any other type of on-the-job accident, our experienced legal team can make sure you win the compensation you deserve.
Under Colorado’s premises liability law, property owners have a legal obligation to prevent most worksite fall-related accidents. The law applies to all property owners, including owners of:
- Construction sites
- Entertainment and sports venues
- Factories and industrial job sites
- Gyms and health clubs
- Medical facilities
- Office buildings
- Retail outlets and dealerships
- Schools and daycare centers
- Supermarkets and big-box stores
While the workers’ compensation system protects employers from injury lawsuits filed by their employees (in most cases), it does not prevent workers from filing claims against third-party property owners – and most companies do not own the premises where they conduct business.
As a result, if you were injured in a slip, trip or fall from height at work, you should not rely solely on workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation will not cover all of your injury-related losses. In order to recover full compensation, you will need to file a third-party claim against a company other than your employer; and, in many cases, this involves filing a claim against the owner of the premises where you were injured.
5 Reasons to Hire a Denver Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Your Claim is Subject to Specific Requirements and Deadlines
From notifying your employer about your injury to challenging your denial of benefits, every step in the process of securing workers’ compensation is subject to specific requirements and strict statutory deadlines. If you make mistakes – even minor technical mistakes – or wait even a day too long, your employer and its workers’ compensation insurer could be well within their rights to deny your claim for benefits.
You May Need to Prove that You Were Injured at Work
Employers and their insurance companies use a variety of tactics to deny injured employees’ claims for benefits. One of these tactics is to challenge employees’ assertions that their injuries are job-related. You need to make sure that your employer’s chosen medical provider accurately diagnoses your injuries, and you need to avoid making statements that could end up being used against you.
You Need to Maximize Your Benefits
In Colorado, workers’ compensation benefits include coverage for medical expenses and temporary or permanent disability. These are not all of the losses associated with a job-related injury. As a result, you need to ensure that you collect the maximum benefits available; and, unfortunately, you cannot rely on your employer and its insurance company to clearly explain the benefits that are available.
Your Workers’ Compensation Claim May Be Denied
Another unfortunate reality of the workers’ compensation system is that many workers’ claims are wrongfully denied. If your employer or its insurance company denies your claim, you will need to determine (i) whether the denial was wrongful, and (ii) if it was, what you need to do next to collect the benefits you deserve. Appealing a denial of workers’ compensation benefits is a complicated process, and you may ultimately need to go to court to protect your legal rights.
You May Have Additional Claims Outside of Workers’ Compensation
While workers’ comp is one source of financial recovery for a job-related injury, it is not the only way to secure financial compensation for an injury you suffered on the job. An experienced Denver workers’ compensation lawyer will be able to assess your case and determine if you may be entitled to full compensation for third-party negligence or premises liability.
Steps to Take After a Denver Workplace Accident
1. Report Your Injury to Your Employer
In order to file for workers’ compensation in Colorado, you must report your injury to your employer in writing within four days of the accident or incident in which you were injured. Your employer should have a form available for you to fill out, and you should take your time to complete the form as completely and accurately as possible.
2. Seek Medical Attention
Once you report your injury, your employer should provide you with a list of approved medical providers. In order to remain eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, you must see an approved provider for your diagnosis and treatment. You can see your own doctor if your employer does not give you a list to choose from, but you should speak with a Denver workers’ comp lawyer first to make sure that you will not be waiving any of your legal rights.
3. Seek the Help of a Denver Workman’s Compensation Lawyer.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney in Denver will be able to help with much more than determining if you are eligible to see your own doctor. Collecting workers’ compensation benefits is not easy, and an experienced attorney will be able to handle the process for you while you focus on your physical recovery. At this stage, your attorney should also:
- Advise you regarding what you should (and shouldn’t) say to your employer’s insurance company;
- Seek maximum benefits for your job-related injury; and,
- Determine whether you have a personal injury or premises liability claim through which you can seek full financial compensation.
4. File an Application for Expedited Hearing (if Necessary)
If your employer or its insurance company denies your claim for benefits, you will receive a Notice of Contest in the mail. Once you receive this notice, you have 45 days to file an Application for Expedited Hearing to challenge your denial of benefits.
5. File an Objection to Final Admission of Liability (if Necessary)
Even if you receive an award of benefits, there are still a number of reasons why you may need to challenge the outcome of your claim. For example, if the determination of your “maximum medical improvement” is inappropriate, you will need to file an objection within 30 days to ensure that you receive the full benefits you deserve.
Questions Your Denver Workers Comp Attorney Will Answer
If you have been injured at work and are wondering whether you should hire an attorney to help you, know this: If you choose an experienced law firm, your initial consultation will be completely free and confidential, and you will not be required to pay any fees or costs unless you receive financial compensation. The firm’s attorneys and staff will also be able to help you with things like scheduling medical appointments, dealing with your employer, and delaying payment on your medical bills until your case settles (or you win a verdict at trial). By speaking with a Denver worker’s comp attorney, you will also be able to get clear answers to questions such as:
1. Are You Entitled to Workers’ Compensation?
In Colorado, most employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance, and nearly all work-related injuries are eligible for benefits. Is your employer (or its insurance company) telling you otherwise? If so, this is the first sign that it may be difficult to collect the benefits you deserve.
2. Are You Entitled to Additional Compensation?
Workers’ compensation covers injured workers’ medical bills and a portion of their lost wages. But, through a personal injury or premises liability claim, you can recover full compensation for your loss of income, pain and suffering, and other losses. Do you have a claim for additional compensation? To find out, you will need to speak with an attorney.
3. How Much are You Entitled to Recover for Your Work Injury?
Are you entitled to full workers’ compensation benefits? If so, what does this mean? If you have a personal injury claim, how do you calculate your pain and suffering (and other losses)? An experienced attorney will be able to provide you with a full case evaluation and outline your potential compensation options. They will also able to make sure you do not settle for less than you deserve.
4. Are You Entitled to See Your Own Doctor?
In Colorado, injured workers must see their employer’s approved medical providers for treatment under most circumstances. Does this apply to you? What if you are not satisfied with the treatment you receive? You are entitled to quality medical treatment throughout your recovery, and you need to make sure the insurance companies do not cut off your medical benefits too soon.
5. Should You Hire a Workman’s Comp Lawyer to Take a Denied Claim to Court?
What is your next step if your workers’ compensation claim is denied? What if your benefits are less than you deserve? These are important – and difficult – questions, and to make informed decisions you need an experienced attorney on your side. An experienced worker’s compensation lawyer will review the case ruling as well as your medical history and relevant documents to see if you may have grounds for an appeal.
Contact a Denver Workers' Compensation Attorney for a Free Consultation
Workers’ compensation benefits should pay the full cost of your medical bills with no co-pays. If you are forced to miss work due to your work injuries, workers’ compensation will pay a portion of your wages. If you were permanently or temporarily disabled, workers’ compensation will pay disability benefits as well. These benefits may cover full disability if you are unable to work, or partial disability if your injury forces you to switch to a job where you earn less.
Unfortunately, employers don’t always pay benefits as required or approve claims in good faith. You deserve to receive the full amount of workers’ compensation coverage owed to you after an injury. If your employer is not treating you fairly, it is wise to consult a workers’ compensation attorney.
At Levine Law, our Denver workers’ compensation attorneys will help you with every aspect of your workers’ comp claim after you have suffered an injury. We will help you every step of the way, from making sure you comply with deadlines to proving your injury occurred at work to appealing a denial of benefits. Give us a call today at 303-333-8000 or contact us online to learn more about how our law firm can help make sure you are cared for and covered after you get hurt on the job.