In Colorado, understanding your rights and how to navigate the complex world of workers' compensation is crucial when you are injured on the job, especially due to workplace negligence. In the following article, gets answers to common questions about dealing with an injury at work: what your rights are, what steps you should take, and how to get maximum compensation, especially if your employer is not supportive of your claim.
Q1: What should a worker do immediately after getting injured on the job?
A: Your safety and well-being are top priorities. Here are the steps you should take after a workplace injury in Colorado:
1. Seek Medical Attention: Ensure you receive immediate medical treatment for your injuries. Inform the healthcare provider that your injury is work-related.
2. Notify Your Supervisor: Report the injury to your employer as soon as possible. Colorado law requires you to report it within four days to be eligible for workers' compensation benefits.
3. Document the Incident: Record the details of the accident, including the date, time, location, and circumstances surrounding the injury. Gather witness information if possible.
4. File a Workers' Compensation Claim: You or your employer should file a claim with the Colorado Division of Workers' Compensation (DOWC) within two years of the injury. Failure to do so may result in a loss of benefits.
Q2: What are an employee’s rights when it comes to an injury at work?
A: In Colorado, employees injured on the job have specific rights related to work injury compensation, including:
1. Medical Benefits: You have the right to receive necessary medical treatment for your work-related injury, paid for by your employer's workers' compensation insurance.
2. Lost Wage Benefits: If your injury results in lost work time, you may be eligible for wage replacement benefits, typically two-thirds of your average weekly wage, subject to certain limits.
3. Choice of Physician: In most cases, you can choose your treating physician. However, there may be limitations in some situations. A couple examples of such situations include if an injured worker is unable to select a physician or if it is an emergency and the worker must get immediate care. Typically, however, after receiving emergency care, the employee can choose their treating physician.
*Note that on January 1, 20234, a new Colorado law, Senate Bill 21-197, is scheduled to take effect, which will expand injured workers' choice of treating physician in workers compensation cases. Under this new law, injured workers will be able to choose from any level I or level II accredited physician through the Colorado Division of Workers' Compensation.
4. Return to Work: If you can't return to your previous job due to your injury, you may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation services to help you find suitable employment.
The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) in Colorado provides services that can help workers develop new skills, find new jobs, and achieve their employment goals. These include:
- Vocational counseling and guidance.
- Job training and education
- Job placement and retention assistance
- Assistive technology
- Supported employment services (services to help injured workers with disabilities keep their jobs)
5. Appeal Rights: If your work injury compensation claim is denied or disputed, you have the right to appeal the decision through the DOWC or the Office of Administrative Courts.
Q3: How does Colorado workers' compensation work, and how can an attorney help?
A: Colorado workers' compensation is a no-fault system, meaning you are entitled to benefits regardless of who caused the injury. An attorney can assist you in several ways:
1. Navigating Complex Laws: Workers' compensation laws can be complex. An experienced attorney can help you understand your rights, guide you through the claims process, and ensure you meet all required deadlines.
2. Maximizing Benefits: An attorney can help you pursue the maximum benefits available, including medical treatment, lost wage compensation, and vocational rehabilitation.
3. Appealing Denials: If your work injury claim is denied or disputed, an attorney can represent you during the appeals process, gathering evidence and presenting a strong case on your behalf.
4. Negotiating Settlements: In some cases, negotiating a lump-sum settlement may be more advantageous than ongoing benefits. An attorney can help you evaluate settlement offers and negotiate on your behalf.
5. Protecting Your Rights: An adversarial employer or insurance company may try to minimize your benefits. An attorney can protect your rights and ensure you are not taken advantage of during the workers’ compensation process.
Q4: What if an employer is uncooperative or adversarial?
A: Unfortunately, some employers may not be as supportive as they should when it comes to work injury compensation. If you encounter an uncooperative or adversarial employer:
1. Consult an Attorney: Reach out to a personal injury attorney with experience in workers' compensation cases. They can advise you on the best course of action, especially when workplace negligence is involved.
2. Report Employer Misconduct: Document any instances of employer misconduct, such as refusing to report your injury or pressuring you not to file a claim. Report this to your attorney and the Colorado DOWC.
3. File a Complaint: If your employer violates Colorado workers' compensation laws, you can file a complaint with the DOWC. They will investigate and take appropriate action.
4. Focus on Your Recovery: Let your attorney handle the legal aspects while you focus on your health and full recovery. They can communicate with your employer and their insurance company on your behalf.
5. Appeal a Denial: If your claim is denied, your attorney can help you appeal the decision and represent you in hearings or court proceedings if necessary.
Q5: Can an injured worker in Colorado sue their employer for workplace negligence in addition to filing a workers' compensation claim?
A: In general, workers' compensation in Colorado is considered the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries. This means that, in most cases, you cannot sue your employer for negligence if you're covered by workers' compensation. However, there are exceptions:
1. Third-Party Claims: If a third party (someone other than your employer or a co-worker) is responsible for your injury, you may be able to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against them in addition to your workers' compensation claim.
2. Intentional Harm: If your employer intentionally caused your workplace injury, you may have grounds for a separate lawsuit.
3. Unsafe Work Conditions: If your injury resulted from unsafe working conditions that your employer knowingly and willfully ignored, you may be able to pursue a lawsuit.
Consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney is crucial to determine if any exceptions apply to your injury case and if you should pursue damages for workplace negligence.
Reliable Representation for Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Negligence Claims
Navigating the aftermath of an injury on the job can be challenging, especially when dealing with your health and recovery, but understanding your rights and seeking legal assistance can make the process smoother.
Injured workers have the right to receive medical treatment and wage benefits, and an experienced attorney can help you maximize your benefits, navigate the legal complexities, and ensure your rights are protected.
In Colorado and western Utah, Doehling Law has won many workers compensation and negligence cases. We have over 60-years-combined experience pursuing personal injury cases and successfully negotiating with insurance companies.
Our clients benefit not only from our expertise, but from our personal care and attention to each and every case. When you call us, you will speak with an experienced lawyer, and you will only pay for services if we win or settle your case.
"Gary made sure that all avenues were explored for getting me the highest award possible, kept me informed of the status of the claims, and expressed great empathy and kindness during my painful recovery.” - Denise M.
Contact Doehling Law to discuss your case with one of our attorneys today.