Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance paid for by employers for employees who are injured or become ill while on the job. Workers’ compensation is designed to provide the injured worker with financial support and medical expense coverage after a workplace injury, regardless of whether the injury was caused by the fault of the worker or not. In exchange for receiving these benefits, the injured worker must forfeit his or her right to sue their employer for the injury.
Report the Injury And Obtain Medical Care
What to do first after suffering an injury while at work depends on how serious the injury is. If the injury is not life-threatening, it is best to notify the employer in writing of the injury before seeking medical care. But if the injury is very serious, or perhaps renders the worker unconscious, the worker may have to be rushed to emergency care, and notification will have to be taken care of at some later point in time.
Employers in Colorado have the right in the first instance to choose what hospital and/or physician to take the injured worker to, or to have the injured worker see during the receipt of his or her medical care for the injury. If the employer requires that the worker to go to a specific doctor, then that is who the worker must see, or risk losing medical expense coverage related to the injury. Yet, there are several instances during recovery that the injured worker may request to change from an authorized (i.e., employer selected) physician and his or her own preferred treating physician. Conversely, if the employer does not specifically prescribe a physician that the injured worker must see, then the injured worker generally has the right to select his or her own physician.
It is important to put the employer on notice about the injury. This must be done in writing within 4 business days of the worker suffering the injury, assuming that the injury has not rendered the worker physically or mentally unable to do so within the prescribed timeframe. If the worker is physically or mentally unable to notify the employer in writing, someone else with knowledge of the incident that caused the injured worker’s injury can make the notice to employer on the worker’s behalf. If the worker is physically and mentally able to make the notification, but fails to do so, the failure may result in a penalty to the injured worker of one day’s worth of compensation for every day that the notice is late.
After being notified, or obtaining actual knowledge of the incident that caused the worker’s injury, the employer then has 10 days to report the incident to the employer’s insurance provider. Injuries that happen in the workplace should always be reported to employers, regardless of how small the injury may seem.
When a workplace injury leaves a worker partially or totally disabled, either temporarily or permanently, the worker is entitled to disability compensation while he or she is disabled. How much compensation the disabled worker receives depends on the classification of his or her disability, i.e., whether the disability is permanent or only temporary in duration, and whether the disability is considered to be a partial disability or a total disability.
- Permanent Total Disability. A worker that is permanently and totally disabled as a result of his or her work related injury is entitled to two thirds of his or her average weekly wage, which is paid for the lifetime of the injured worker.
- Permanent Partial Disability. A permanent partial disability refers to a disability that is everlasting, but only impacts a portion of the workers ability to use a body part or body system. For example, if a worker loses the ability to use 3 of his 5 fingers on the left hand, or if a worker loses a portion of his range of motion in his right shoulder. In either case, the worker still has the ability to use these body parts to a certain degree, but no more. Permanent partial disability compensation is based on two factors: whether your disability is a scheduled impairment, and the extent of the disability as determined by a doctor.
- Scheduled impairments. Compensation for certain disabilities experienced in specific body parts or body systems are provided for by law, which are referred to as “scheduled impairments.” Under the schedule, an injured arm is worth a certain dollar value, while the loss of an eye is worth something else. Injuries that are not provided for in the schedule are considered to be “non-scheduled injuries.” Compensation for non-scheduled injuries are determined by a number of factors.
- Extent of the disability. A doctor will examine the worker and will make a determination as to what percentage of the worker’s ability to use the injured body part or body system has been lost, and compensation for the partial permanent disability will be made based on the doctor’s determined percentage.
- Temporary Partial Disability. A worker is temporarily partially disabled when his or her injury/disability renders him or her unable to work for the duration of time until he or she is declared to have reached maximum medical improvement by a doctor. This means that the worker has recovered from the injury/disability to the best of his or her ability, i.e., the injury or disability is at its maximum possible level of recovery. Compensation is generally two-thirds of the difference between what the worker was earning prior to the disability and what the worker is able to earn after the disability.
- Temporary Total Disability. When a worker is temporarily totally disabled, the worker is entitled disability compensation as a form of wage replacement. Payments for temporary disabilities are paid beginning the 4th day of missed work due to the injury/disability and last until the worker is able to return to work. Compensation for a temporary total disability is calculated similar to temporary partial disability.