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Workers’ Compensation
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Colorado Workers' Compensation Law Blog

How soon must workers' compensation claims be filed in Colorado?

Every injury or illness is different. In some cases, the extent of an injury may become very rapidly. On the other hand, certain medical conditions may develop over a longer period of time, which can cause a delay in treatment.

In the context of a workplace injury or illness, timing is a key factor. According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, employees must report an on-the-job injury within four working days of it occurring. If the injury becomes apparent immediately after an accident, then reporting within this timeframe may be relatively straightforward. On the other hand, if an incident occurs and it takes some time for symptoms to appear, employees may find themselves in a bind.

Colorado: Still room to improve workplace safety

There are many great things that can be said about living in Colorado. It's a naturally beautiful state and it's a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Certainly, many people enjoy a relatively high quality of life in this state.

Not long ago, WalletHub released a list of the safest states. Using a broad range of criteria, including everything from financial safety to community safety to workplace safety, the organization put together rankings. Interestingly enough, Colorado ended up right in the middle, at number 25.

Looking closer, Colorado did better on workplace safety than on its overall score, receiving a rank of 13 in this respect.

America's workplace safety framework, Part 2: The cost of injury

In many cases, employers are very responsive to the needs of their employees. On a very basic level, this means making sure that all employees have what they need to be safe and successful on the job.

While some employers exceed basic workplace safety standards simply because it’s the right thing to do for employees, others simply do what is mandated by law. Of course, complete failure to meet safety mandates puts employees at risk, but meeting the bare minimum for safety can also be detrimental.

Is America's workplace safety framework broken? Rules, Part 1

As we have noted multiple times on this blog, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is one of the biggest allies workers have in ensuring that they remain safe on the job. However, this agency can only remain as effective as it’s allowed to be.

David Michaels, head of OSHA, recently discussed some of the major issues that exist in the agency today. He indicates that the current rulemaking and regulatory structure does not resemble what it was originally intended to look like. Ultimately, this has had a detrimental impact on workplace safety.

Carriers Waiver of Overpayment in Subrogation Settlement Must be Specifically Negotiated

Milazzo v. Total Longterm Care, Inc, (ICAO June 11, 2014)

Under Colorado Law, the payment of workers compensation benefits for or on behalf of the claimant automatically assigns a cause of action against a third-party tortfeasor to the workers compensation carrier. A subrogation interest exists in favor of the carrier against the proceeds of a third-party settlement or judgment.

In the Milazzo case, the claimant had been overpaid temporary total disability benefits because she was actually working during a portion of the time that she was receiving TTD. This was obviously an overpayment and was found to be so by the ALJ. After offsetting temporary partial and permanent disability benefits owed to the claimant against the overpayment, there was still a remaining overpayment of $8,451.08.

Workplace injury and illness: Defining total permanent disability

Just like any type of injury or illness, work-related health issues can vary significantly in severity. In certain cases, a person might suffer a minor on-the-job injury that involves minimal time away from work and a straightforward medical remedy. On the other hand, a person's work-related health concern might be so severe that the possibility of being able to return to the job seems unlikely.

According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, permanent total disability is defined by a condition that makes it impossible for a person to return to their previous job role or any other profession. This type of medical condition is obviously going to require a lifestyle change, in addition to potential ongoing medical care.

The health care industry: Less safe than construction work?

The health care industry is designed to help people deal with medical issues and work toward recovery or becoming comfortable. With this in mind, it's probably strange to think about health care workers suffering their own health issues in the process of tending to others. The reality, however, is that this problem is more common than some might realize.

Data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration indicates that nursing home and long-term care employees suffered from twice as many work-related injuries and illnesses as construction workers. Interestingly enough, construction is traditionally considered a high-risk profession.

A double-edged sword: Construction fatalities accompany growth

In many respects, growth in the construction industry is viewed as a sign of economic growth and progress. Certainly, this is bound to inspire hope after a long recession. Construction projects are springing up in many corners of the country, which has allowed many construction workers to take their names off of the unemployment rolls.

This progress does have a dark side, however. Data recently released by the AFL-CIO indicates that the rate of construction-related fatalities is on the rise. In 2012, the rate sat at 9.9 per 100,000 workers, which represents a noticeable year-over-year increase. Just a year earlier, the rate was 9.1 per 100,000 workers.

Claim may be Dismissed for Failure to Comply with a Discovery Order

Gonzales v. University of Colorado Health, W.C Nos. 4-865-972 & 4-851-350 (ICAO, June 12, 2014).

The Industrial Claim Appeal Office ruled that a workers compensation claim can be dismissed with prejudice if the claimant does not comply with an order compelling discovery. In the Gonzales case, claimant's counsel appears to have simply ignored a prehearing administrative law judge's order, issued on October 24, 2013, compelling the claimant to provide discovery responses and signed authorizations within 10 days. After the releases and responses were not forthcoming, respondents filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice, which was granted by an ALJ on January 17, 2014. In the order, the administrative law judge found that the claimant had ignored the procedural rules requiring the return of signed releases and that the claimant failed to answer interrogatories. He further found that the Respondents were highly prejudiced by the claimant's failure to comply.

Workers' compensation may be in line for work-related violence

Many Denver residents might feel relatively safe and secure at their offices or workplaces. Although this is the way workers should be able to feel, the sad reality is that there is always a possibility for violence to erupt.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 2 million people report instances of workplace violence each year. At the same time, many cases could be going unreported if employees are afraid to file a report. This is a real issue in the American workplace.

Whether one employee physically assaults another or an outside party resorts to using a weapon, workers and their employers face a very difficult situation in the wake of a violent outbreak.

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