Colorado Supreme Court Issues Judgment on Woman’s PTD Benefits

We don’t often delve into court cases on the Colorado workers’ compensation blog and knowledge center but a recent decision by the Colorado Supreme Court is an exceptional circumstance since it overturns a decision from a lower court.

This particular case involves a woman who was injured working in a restaurant way back in 1990 – over 20 years ago now.

To cut to the chase, a judge declared her permanently and totally disabled as of October of 2002 and awarded PTD benefits to her on December 5, 2006. In 2007, she elected to take a lump sum of $26,202 as an advance on her PTD benefits. At the time, this amount represented the statutory maximum aggregate lump sum she could receive.

That year, the Colorado General Assembly increased this amount to $60,000 through an amendment to the Workers’ Compensation Act passed many decades ago. The Colorado workers’ compensation agency (the Division) issued a non-binding advisory interpreting this amendment to be applicable to all claims without regard to the date of injury. The advisory was to be effective once the Governor signed the bill, which he did in May of that year.

In October of ’07, the injured worker applied for an additional lump sum payment of $33,798. Her request was rejected by the Colorado Insurance Guaranty Association, the workers’ comp insurer for her employer. They argued that a prior court case (Eight Thousand West Corp v. Stewart) declared that an injured employee was only entitled to the max aggregate lump sum at the time of injury.

On 12/19/07, the Division rejected CIGA’s argument and ordered them to pay the injured worker the additional lump sum payment. They appealed to the Industrial Claims Appeals Office (ICAO) for a review of the agency’s order. On 5/2/2008, the ICAO reversed the Division’s order.

The injured employee appealed the ICAO decision and was glad to see their decision reversed by the court of appeals on grounds that the 2007 amendment was procedural in nature and “operates prospectively on requests for lump sum payments filed after its date of enactment.”

In the final step, her employer and workers’ comp insurer issued an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court asking them to review ICAO’s decision. They came back agreeing with the decision and ordered CIGA pay the woman the additional lump sum payment.

Reversing a lower court’s ruling rarely happens as most appeal cases to the Supreme Court are never even heard. As it stands now, the injured employee will receive the additional lump sum payment.

Reading this story should remind you – it usually takes many years to obtain your rightful workers’ compensation benefits. If you’re totally and permanently disabled, you want to ensure you receive the maximum amount the law entitles you to for your injuries.

If you’re experiencing problems obtaining benefits or simply want to know more, contact Colorado workers’ compensation attorneys at the Babcock Law Firm today.

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Categories: Workers' Compensation
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