Colorado Workers’ Compensation Jurisdiction
Serving Injured Workers in Colorado
What if I’m injured while working out-of-state?
Learn how the system works for out-of-state workplace injuries and accidents.
Most of the time, it’s pretty obvious which state’s workers’ compensation laws apply in a particular situation. When a worker who lives in Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo Grand Junction or another community in the state gets injured on the job in Colorado, the jurisdiction is usually pretty clear. Colorado workers’ compensation laws will apply because they’re a resident of Colorado working in Colorado.
For example, let’s say a Colorado Springs resident gets hurt one day at his job at a local mechanic shop. He is a resident of the state and his employer is a business registered in Colorado, where the injury occurred. In this case, jurisdiction is pretty obvious that Colorado workers’ compensation laws apply.
However, there are some cases where workers’ compensation case jurisdiction (i.e. which state’s laws apply) isn’t so clear.
For example, consider that many companies, especially construction firms and trucking companies, do business in other states. Perhaps a worker commutes the 47 miles between Fort Collins and Cheyenne, Wyoming for their job. Or maybe someone living in Durango, Colorado commutes the 51 miles from their home to a job over the state line in Farmington, New Mexico.
So how does someone know which state’s laws they’re covered by in these situations?
We’ll answer this question and explain the major legal precedents impacting workers’ compensation jurisdiction in Colorado in the sections below. If you still are confused after reading this information, we invite you to reach out to our Colorado workers’ compensation attorneys for answers about your specific case.
We’ll always be there for you through the whole process. Every step of the way.
Early Legal Precedents: Standards in Determining Workers’ Compensation Jurisdiction
In the first 25 years of Colorado’s workers’ compensation system (which was established in 1915), various appellate court cases and the Industrial Commission developed rules on determining jurisdiction since there is very little information codified in the statutes on the matter.
In the early days, appellate courts found that “the law of the place of contract governed” – meaning the place where an employment contract was finalized dictated which state’s laws apply in the event of an on-the-job injury.
Industrial Commission of Colorado v. Aetna Life Insurance, Co. (1918)
In Industrial Commission of Colorado v. Aetna Life Insurance, Co., a Colorado-based employer hired a Coloradoan to supervise construction projects across the West. While traveling from Wyoming to Idaho one day, the worker was tragically killed in a car accident.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Colorado awarded full workers’ compensation benefits to the worker’s heirs, stating that it was a “…essential part of his employment that the deceased should travel…” and that the contract of employment created protection for the employee out-of-state. Without this protection, the deceased’s employer would have been required to purchase workers’ comp insurance in every state they did business in – something that would have been a prohibitive cost indeed.
Platt v. Reynolds (1929)
Conversely, just because an injury occurs in Colorado doesn’t mean that the injured employee is automatically entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
Another early theory of jurisdiction involved what’s called a “substantial portion” of employment, which was codified in the case Platt v. Reynolds. In this case, which remained the standard until 1957, the court ruled that an employment contract made in Colorado, with no other ties to the state, wasn’t enough to grant the injured employee coverage under Colorado workers’ compensation.
Modern Standards for Colorado Workers’ Comp Jurisdiction: Perryman Test and Extraterritorial Provisions
Denver Truck Exchange v. Perryman (1957)
Until the landmark case Denver Truck Exchange v. Perryman in 1957, the Supreme Court held the view that a “substantial portion” of employment was the principal factor in determining jurisdiction.
This landmark Colorado workers’ compensation case established the requirements for conferring jurisdiction in Colorado—known as the “Perryman Test.”
To qualify, an injured worker had to meet 2 of the following 3 requirements:
- Contract of employment created in Colorado
- Employment in Colorado under a contract created outside the state
- Substantial employment in Colorado
As long as at least 2 of these requirements are met, it makes no difference whether an employee is a Colorado resident or if they are a resident and working out-of-state at the time of their injury, provided other statutory time limits on out-of-state employment are met. Therefore, if the only tie to the state is the location of the injury, the worker isn’t entitled to Colorado workers’ compensation benefits.
State Compensation Insurance Fund v. Howington (1956) and Extraterritorial Provisions
Statutory time limits are provided in more detail in the extraterritorial provisions of Colorado’s workers’ compensation statutes, which creates an exception to the rules outlined in the Perryman case. As long as an injury occurs out-of-state within 6 months of the time the claimant left the state, they are still covered.
For example in State Compensation Insurance Fund v. Howington, the injured worker was a miner hired in Colorado who was immediately sent to work in Utah. Even though he never worked in Colorado and was going to be working in Utah for an indefinite period, he was awarded Colorado workers’ compensation benefits because his injury occurred within 6 months of his hiring and assignment to work in Utah.
Hathaway Lighting v. Industrial Claims Appeals Office (2006)
However, extraterritorial provisions do require the claimant to have been physically present in Colorado at some time. For example, in Hathaway Lighting v. Industrial Claims Appeals Office, a claimant who was a resident of Washington State and hired by a Colorado firm to work on projects out-of-state was injured while working in Oregon.
The court determined the worker was not entitled to Colorado workers’ compensation benefits under extraterritorial provisions since he had never set foot in Colorado from his hire date to the date of injury.
Determining Jurisdiction is Important in Your Workers’ Comp Case
If you are confused about which state’s laws apply to your situation, remember this:
If you’re having trouble obtaining your benefits because you fall into one of these special situations, contact an experienced Denver workers’ compensation attorney at The Babcock Law Firm today for your no-risk, no-fee consultation.
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.
Serving Injured Workers Throughout Colorado
From our office in Denver, we represent injured workers across the state—including in Colorado Springs, Littleton, Boulder, Aurora, Broomfield, Louisville, Lafayette, Lakewood, Golden, Thornton, Westminster, Longmont, Loveland, Fort Collins and many other Colorado cities.