Colorado Workers’ Compensation for Farmworkers
Learn how to file a claim and get maximum compensation after a farm injury
People often imagine the Rocky Mountains when they think of Colorado’s landscape, so many are surprised to learn that nearly half of the state is covered by farmland. In fact, approximately 34,000 ranches and farms encompass more than 31 million acres of land in the state.
Colorado farms provide more than 170,000 jobs and add $40 billion in revenue to the state’s economy each year. In addition to providing food for the almost 6 million people who call Colorado home, the state’s agribusiness produces food and products to support industries like construction, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation and many more.
There are undoubtedly certain hazards inherent to farm work, but fortunately, workers who are injured in the course of their employment on Colorado farms may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Farm work risks and statistics
The physical nature of farm work, the heavy equipment agricultural workers use, and the presence of potentially unpredictable animals are among the risks that make the agriculture industry one of the most hazardous.
In 2021, the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industries recorded occupational death rates of 20 deaths per 100,000 workers. Compared to the national average of 3.6 deaths per 100,000 workers, workers in agricultural jobs face a much higher risk of being killed in a work-related accident.
Notably, nearly two-thirds of agricultural workers who were killed in a fatal work accident were 55 or older.
Common occupational hazards in agricultural jobs
Transportation-related accidents are often the leading cause of death among farmworkers. Other causes of injuries for farm workers include:
Common injuries among farmworkers
Because farmworkers often do strenuous labor, workplace injuries can range from pain caused by overexertion injuries, such as muscle strains, to more acute injuries caused by accidents.
The following injuries are common in farm settings:
Workers’ compensation laws in Colorado
Employees who are injured while working on a farm may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Colorado requires nearly all employers that employ at least 1 full-time or part-time employee to provide workers’ comp coverage to their workers.
Workers’ comp insurance policies provide no-fault coverage, which means the injured worker does not need to prove negligence or fault for the injury. They can also receive benefits if the worker was at fault for their own injury.
Workers only need to prove that their injuries or illnesses were a direct result of their jobs or work environments or that the injury happened while they were at work.
Worker eligibility under Colorado’s workers’ comp laws
Unlike many other states, Colorado law generally presumes that anyone who is hired to provide services for pay is an employee. The presumption extends to family members, including relatives who help each other on a family-owned farm or in an agricultural business.
There are some types of workers who might not be required to be covered under workers’ compensation insurance. Some businesses may choose to reject coverage by filing a form with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
This could happen under these limited circumstances:
- An owner of at least 10% of the company for a business or LLC; and president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer or chairman of the board, or a member of the LLC; or
- Owner of a construction company that has no other employees.
Other workers that are exempt from workers’ compensation insurance include:
- Domestic workers who work fewer than 40 hours per week and fewer than five days per week
- Real estate brokers or agents who work solely on commission by contract
- Motor carriers that lease vehicles to or from drivers
- Casual farm and ranch labor, or casual maintenance workers who earn not more than $2,000 per year
- Ski volunteers
Workers’ comp for Colorado farmworkers
Colorado requires agricultural employers to carry workers’ compensation coverage for their employers. Therefore, most Colorado farmworkers who are injured while on the job are eligible to receive workers’ comp benefits.
Seasonal farmworkers also generally qualify for workers’ comp benefits, but these workers should consider contacting a workers’ compensation attorney who has experience with agricultural injury cases for assistance with confirming eligibility and filing a claim to ensure their rights are protected.
Types of benefits available through workers’ comp
Injured Colorado farmworkers may be eligible for the following benefits:
- Medical benefits for all necessary medical appointments, hospitalizations, supplies and procedures, rehabilitation, and transportation to and from medical appointments.
- Lost wage benefits that cover two-thirds of your average weekly wage if a work injury causes a disability or requires time off from work. Lost wages include temporary partial disability, temporary total disability, permanent partial disability, and permanent total disability benefits .
- Disfigurement, which is permanent and visible scarring as a result of a work-related injury or accident.
- Death benefits to your dependents in the event of a fatal workplace accident. Surviving spouses and children under age 18 are presumed to be dependents.
Filing a workers’ comp claim in Colorado
Injured farmworkers may begin the workers’ compensation process on their own. However, we recommend contacting an attorney to learn more about the process. There are steps every injured worker should take in the event of a workplace accident to ensure they remain eligible for employee compensation:
- Seek medical treatment immediately. This will ensure you have documentation linking your injury to a work accident.
- Report the injury to the employer. This should be done as early as possible, but ideally within 4 days. If the injury is not immediately urgent or life-threatening, go to an employer-approved doctor. You must report the injury to your employer in writing within 10 days of the injury.
- Wait to see if your claim is approved. You must file your claim with the Department of Labor and Employment within 2 years from the date of the injury. You should receive a decision about your claim within 20 days.
- Contact an attorney. If your claim is denied or you would like help with the claim process, contact a workers’ comp attorney to ensure you don’t miss your chance at compensation.
Preventing farm injuries
Agricultural workers and employers can take several practical steps to reduce the risk of workers getting hurt on the job.
Workers should do the following:
- Be on the lookout for hazards like potholes and ditches while driving machinery.
- Know the appropriate speed and slope limits of any machinery you’re driving.
- Never put your hand, foot, or head in any machine parts that are moving.
- Never operate any machinery with missing safety guards.
- Avoid loose clothing and accessories that could get caught in machinery.
- Get ample rest to avoid mistakes caused by fatigue.
Employers should provide sufficient training and supervision to ensure workers learn to operate machinery and follow all safety procedures. Regular operational checks should be done to ensure all equipment, safety guards, and other potentially hazardous objects are positioned safely. Additionally, personal protective equipment should always be available to workers and encouraged while working to promote farmworker safety.
Contact a Colorado workers’ compensation attorney
Workers’ compensation cases aren’t always as clear-cut as they seem, and unfortunately, legitimate claims are denied every single day. If you’re an agricultural worker who’s been injured on the job, contact the experienced work injury attorneys at The Babcock Law Firm.
Our attorneys are committed to helping injured Coloradans get maximum compensation after a work accident. Let us handle the negotiations with your employer and their insurance company so you can focus on healing.
Contact us today for a free consultation of your case.