All of your first-party insurance policies like auto, home and life owe you a duty to act in good faith. This applies to Colorado workers’ compensation claims, as well, as they have been interpreted to be similar to first-party insurance policies.
Therefore, Colorado workers’ compensation insurance carriers are obligated to investigate your claim or pay you the benefits you are entitled to under Colorado workers’ compensation laws. If they do not fulfill this obligation or mislead you – a.k.a. act in “bad faith” – you then have the grounds to seek both economic and non-economic damages through an insurance bad faith suit.
This is not to say you have grounds for a Colorado bad faith suit simply because the insurance company makes a decision you do not agree with. However, if they hold back from you any medical benefits, lost wages and permanent disability benefits you are indeed entitled to under the law, you can obtain representation from a workers' compensation attorney to force the insurance company to pay those benefits.
Also, if the insurance company procedurally mishandles a claim as outlined in Colorado workers’ compensation statutes, they can be subject to penalties and sanctions in the workers’ compensation case but not necessarily a bad faith suit.
A workers’ compensation claim and/or suit only allows you to obtain the benefits outlined in Colorado workers’ compensation statutes, not any additional economic or non-economic damages resulting from an insurance company’s bad faith conduct.
Take for example a trucker injured on the job who was told by his company’s occupational accident insurance company that he was not entitled to full workers’ compensation benefits when the law said he was. The insurance company actually had a workers’ compensation policy in place the whole time but was refusing to pay full benefits.
This bad faith conduct caused many problems for the injured trucker, forcing him to go into debt, sell valuable possessions and rely on family to simply stay afloat. Not to mention the mental anguish and stress of being unable to secure his lost wages and medical costs.
A situation like this qualifies for a bad faith suit – intentional misleading by an insurance company that results in economic hardship and adds heartache to an already stressful situation. In the end, this particular case ended with a settlement between the injured trucker, his employer and the workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
If you’re working with a Colorado attorney for injured workers to obtain benefits you are entitled to and it is discovered that the insurance company is acting in bad faith, another attorney from either within or outside the firm who has not been involved in the workers’ comp. case will need to come in and co-counsel the bad faith case. Rules of Professional Conduct in Colorado state that an attorney should not “act as an advocate at a trial” in a case where the attorney will be a “necessary witness”.
In all likelihood, your workers’ compensation attorney will be your primary witness in a bad faith suit. Therefore, it is improper under professional conduct rules for him/her to fully represent you in both lawsuits.
Being injured on-the-job is a bad enough experience, made even worse if you have problems obtaining your benefits. You assume your employer and Colorado workers’ compensation insurance carrier will act honestly but sometimes that isn’t the case. Bad faith suits are one way to hold them responsible for their actions and compensate you for the additional trouble in resolving your situation.
Discuss the details of your claim with a Colorado Workers’ Compensation lawyer at The Babcock Firm today. No matter where you are in the state of Colorado, if your case falls within our practice area and we feel our representation can benefit you, an attorney will conduct an in-depth consultation at no charge. We are here to help you secure a successful outcome. Contact us today and learn more about how representation works.Disclaimer