FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2011-07-12
Around the country — in states including Maine, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Colorado — legislators have proposed sweeping changes to the workers’ compensation benefits system. These reforms have been presented under the guise of reducing operating costs for businesses to draw employers to the state and keep local employers happy. However, the proposed changes could severely limit the workers’ compensation benefits available to deserving injured workers.
Lawmakers claim that the changes they offer are only designed to thwart people trying to take advantage of loopholes in the system and fraudulently obtaining benefits they do not need. Particularly troubling, though, is the trend towards discounting the impact of emotional and psychological trauma on the well-being of a worker and his or her ability to perform necessary functions of a job.
Unfortunately, if the legislation passes, the tides of change will not only sweep away wrongdoers, they could also wipe out deserving recipients who legitimately rely on workers’ compensation payments for their on-the-job injuries. Some bills propose putting caps on the amount of time that an injured worker can collect benefits. If the caps are imposed, lawmakers will likely catch a few people trying to cheat the system to prolong payments for an already-healed or inconsequential injury; more likely, though, is the scenario in which someone who indeed suffered a serious and life-changing injury has the benefits he or she needs to survive cut off arbitrarily.
In addition to caps on the amount of time that injured workers would be able to receive benefit payments, proposed legislation in several states would put additional restrictions on current workers’ compensation systems. For example, a bill circulating in the North Carolina legislature could make it harder for injured workers to change doctors during the course of their treatment, might disqualify many workers from treatment for injuries that did not primarily result from their work, and might force workers whose injuries prevent them from returning to their former employment to take lower-paying jobs elsewhere in an effort to speed their return to the workforce. The situation in North Carolina is extreme, however, since they have some of the highest workers’ compensation-related costs in the nation.
Potential reforms in Colorado, Montana and other states are more worker-friendly, but they still put some workers at risk of being excluded from benefit payments.
What About the Colorado Workers’ Compensation System?
While the Colorado worker’s compensation system has undergone reform in recent years, it is still relatively worker-friendly. The Colorado Division of Workers’ Compensation (CDWC) is responsible for ensuring the smooth operation of workers’ compensation claims around the state.
Like most other state workers’ compensation agencies, the CDWC is not an insurance provider, but instead is a source of information for injured workers and serves to reduce denials and mitigate disputes between injured workers and their employers. The CDWC is also tasked with enforcing laws that require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance and for educating people around the state about the workers’ compensation system.
What Should I Do if I am Injured on the Job in Colorado?
If you receive a life- or limb-threatening injury at a Colorado jobsite or workplace, you should seek medical attention immediately. As soon as practicable, you also need to inform your employer in writing about the circumstances and extent of your injury. Informing your employer in writing is essential to preserve your right to a possible workers’ compensation claim.
Depending on your individual employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy, you may or may not have a choice of medical providers, and you need to strictly adhere to the guidelines set forth by your employer. Doing so can dramatically increase the chances that your workers’ compensation claim will be successfully resolved. Even if your workers’ compensation claim is initially denied, you have the right under Colorado law to file an appeal.
The CDWC can assist injured workers in making workers’ compensation claims. But, the help of an experienced Colorado workers’ compensation lawyer can be invaluable when navigating the workers’ compensation system. When you are injured on the job, you need to be able to focus your time and energy on recovery and not worry about paperwork and potentially-complicated legal claims. Contact a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney to help you get the benefits you deserve.