Colorado Workers' Compensation Guide

Reporting an On-the-Job Injury

What should I do if I'm injured on-the-job?

Getting injured is an unfortunate fact of life but if something happens during the course of your employment, there are certain steps you need to follow to ensure you receive all of the Colorado workers' compensation benefits you're entitled to. Not following the procedures outlined below could put your benefits at risk.

First of all – if you're injuries are threatening to life and/or limb, seek medical attention immediately and then notify your employer in writing.

Reporting your Injury

If your injuries are NOT life or limb threatening, verbally notify your supervisor and ask if there are any internal accident reporting forms you need to complete. You are also required to notify your employer in writing within four working days of the injury.

Even if you're written notification isn't necessary, do it anyway and keep a copy for your records. If your supervisor doesn't accept written notification, go to their supervisor or your company's human resources department.

Colorado workers' compensation laws stipulate that you must provide written notification of your injury within FOUR working days. Your employer can seek to reduce your compensation for each day past four days... and it's awfully difficult to prove to a judge that you reported your injury in a timely manner if it's only done verbally.

Include the following on your brief written statement:

•  How the injury occurred

•  When the injury occurred

•  Where the injury occurred... and

•  What body parts were affected

Your statement only needs to be three or four sentences long – just enough to provide a few specifics of your injury.

In addition to reporting the injury to your employer, you will also need to file a claim with the Colorado Division of Workers' Compensation (DOWC) within, in most instances, 2 years of your injury. The "statute of limitations" is 3 years for some injuries or can be extended beyond the standard 2-year limit if it can be proven you had a valid reason for not being able to file.

Nevertheless, filing this claim within 2 years helps ensure you will not see a sudden stop in your benefits if your case goes on that long.

Designating a Physician (Employer)

Once you report your non-life or limb threatening injury to your employer IN WRITING, they have some immediate obligations to meet as well – namely designating at least two physicians or two corporate medical providers or one of each for you to choose from to go for treatment.

They can provide this information to you verbally in the beginning but they must provide it in writing within 7 business days following their receipt of your notice. This Designated Provider List must also include the name and contact information of at least one representative from the company (if self-insured) or the employer's Colorado workers' compensation insurer.

If you're not in your usual workplace and are injured, you can seek medical treatment immediately then refer to the Designated Provider List your employer is required to give you within the 7-day timeframe.

And if your injuries are life or limb threatening, seek emergency medical attention immediately. Once emergency care is no longer required, the process outlined above applies.

It's very important you only see doctors or medical providers authorized by your employer (or their workers' comp insurer) through the Designated Provider List .

All treatment must go through or be referred by this "primary physician." If you simply obtain medical treatment on your own (outside situations mentioned earlier) it may be deemed unauthorized and become your financial responsibility.

What if my employer doesn't provide the Designated Provider List?

If your employer doesn't provide you with any list of authorized physicians to obtain medical treatment from, you may select an authorized treating physician on your own. The claim you file with the DOWC will initiate the compensation process with the insurer once you file it.

The agency will contact your employer's insurer with a letter asking whether they will admit liability and pay your benefits or not... the insurer has 20 business days from receipt of the form to reply.

Other Employer Responsibilities

After receiving your notification of injury and providing you with a list of authorized physicians, they must next report the incident to their insurer (or the DOWC if self-insured) within 10 business days of your initial report. From there, the workers' comp insurer has 20 business days to admit or deny the claim.

If they fail to do this, the claim you file with the Colorado's Division of Workers' Compensation (DOWC) will initiate the workers' comp process.

And if your injury causes you to miss three or more shifts of work, your employer must also file a report with the DOWC.

I've heard filing a claim with the DOWC is not required but you're saying it essentially is. What's the deal?

There's often confusion as to whether an injured worker has to file anything with the Colorado workers' compensation agency if their employer follows the procedures they're supposed to. In short, you need to file a report of your injury with the DOWC to ensure you receive all of the benefits you need to treat your injuries and compensate you for lost wages.

The statute of limitations for a workers' compensation claim – or the maximum time after an event that legal action can be initiated – is two years in most cases. The only way for this to NOT apply to you is to file a claim with the DOWC.

Even if your employer follows all of the procedures they're supposed to, your case can be closed on the two-year anniversary if your treatment lasts longer than two years (or 3 in other cases). This issue gets awfully confusing for injured workers who do not obtain legal representation... if your treatment only lasts a year or so, then no problem.

But considering that it's difficult to predict how long your treatment will last, it's in your best interest to be ahead of the curve and file the claim with the DOWC. Doing so will ensure you will receive benefits for as long as you need them.

What if my injury occurred over a period of time and not as a result of a specific event?

Injuries like carpal tunnel or thoracic outlet syndrome occur over a period of time rather than from a specific event. If performing your job causes a chronic ailment that prevents you from fully performing your job, you have an occupational disease.

If you have a condition like carpal tunnel syndrome or some other occupational disease, you are entitled to the same benefits as someone who is injured from a specific accident.

Unlike injuries where the time for reporting or filing a claim begins at the date of the accident, occupational diseases begin when you knew or should have known you had a medical condition caused by your employment.

Therefore, once you know you have an occupational disease that was caused by your job, report it to your employer so you can obtain treatment. Beyond that, the workers' compensation process pretty much works like it's detailed above.

Next Chapter: Bad Faith Lawsuits

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