How to Report a Work-Related Injury or Condition
Serving Injured Workers in Colorado
What to do after an accident at work: injured worker reporting requirements and timelines in Colorado
Getting injured is an unfortunate risk that all workers experience. But if something happens during your employment, there are certain steps you need to follow to ensure you receive all of the benefits that the Colorado workers’ compensation system provides injured workers. Not following these procedures could put your benefits at risk.
In Colorado, there are 2 requirements an injured worker must follow to report a work-related injury.
First, the injured worker needs to report the injury in writing to his or her employer within 4 working days of the injury. Even if the injured worker was injured more than 4 days ago, they should still notify their employer in writing as soon as possible.
Second, the injured worker must file a Workers’ Claim for Compensation form (WC-14) with the Colorado Division of Workers’ Compensation (DOWC) within 2 years of the injury.
An injured worker needs to make every effort to meet both of these requirements. We often, however, run into workers who have difficulty meeting one or both of these requirements for various reasons and help these folks understand their legal options.
If you have unanswered questions about your rights and responsibilities as an injured or sick employee in Colorado, contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney at The Babcock Law Firm as soon as possible to get answers. Your first consultation is free, so it will cost only your time to find out what you should do next.
We’ll always be there for you through the whole process. Every step of the way.
Step 1: Report a Work Injury to Your Employer In Writing
Deadline: within 4 days
Reporting an injury verbally to an employer isn’t good enough. While it’s possible that your claim will be processed smoothly if you report your injury to your employer verbally, the reality is that you put yourself at risk to suffer a negative consequence if you don’t report an injury in writing.
For instance, an employer can seek to reduce the amount of compensation due to an injured worker for each day beyond 4 days that an injury isn’t reported in writing. It’s also harder to prove to an administrative judge that an injury was reported on time if it was only reported verbally.
The case can become a he said/she said situation between you and your employer—and it’s awfully difficult to prove to a judge that you reported your injury in a timely manner if it was only done verbally.
Once you’re injured, report it to your direct supervisor as soon as possible and ask your employer if they have internal accident reporting forms you need to fill out. Don’t simply rely on a supervisor or manager to take care of reporting your injury to human resources, or a higher manager or supervisor. Take steps to begin the workers’ compensation process yourself.
Even if your boss says that 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.
If your supervisor doesn’t have you fill out accident report forms or direct you to human resources (or another supervisor or manager) to report the injury, you may need to go on your own to human resources (or a higher manager or supervisor) and report the injury.
If you’re still met with resistance, write a brief statement with the following details:
- How the injury occurred
- When the accident happened
- Where it occurred
- What body parts were injured
This statement doesn’t need to be more than 3 or 4 sentences—just enough to provide a few specifics of your injury—but it does need to be as specific as possible about the details of the injury. Date the statement and make a copy of it for your records. Then, either hand-deliver the statement or mail it to your employer and ask them to include it in your personnel file.
Step 2: File a Workers’ Claim for Compensation Form
Deadline: within 2 years
Under the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act, an injured worker can lose their right to all workers’ compensation benefits if they don’t file a Workers’ Claim for Compensation form with the Colorado Division of Workers’ Compensation within 2 years of the date of injury.
A Workers’ Claim for Compensation is a fill-in-the-blank form provided by the DOWC and can be obtained either at the Division’s offices (633 17th Street, Suite 400, Denver, Colorado 80202) or on the Division’s website. You can also download the form here.
This form asks for more detailed information than what’s generally reported to the employer initially.
If you have already reported your injury to their employer in writing, we recommend consulting with a workers’ compensation attorney in Colorado before filing this form.
Even if your employer has referred you for medical treatment and provided some benefits, it doesn’t relieve you of the requirement to file a Workers’ Claim for Compensation.
There are circumstances where an employer can provide benefits over a 2-year period and then completely deny a case once this deadline has passed — if the employee never filed the Claim for Compensation form.
There are few exceptions to this deadline. The “statute of limitations” is 3 years for some injuries or can be extended beyond the standard 2-year limit only if it can be proven you had a valid reason for not being able to file.
Nevertheless, filing your claim within 2 years helps ensure you will not see a sudden stop in your benefits if your case goes on that long.
What if My Injury Wasn’t from a Specific Accident, but Occurred Over Time?
Injuries or medical conditions that aren’t the result of a specific traumatic accident but instead occur over time due to the conditions or requirements of a worker’s employment are known as occupational injuries.
One of the most common and well-known occupational diseases is carpal tunnel syndrome, but there are many types of medical conditions that can occur as a result of a work-related illness. Essentially, if performing your job causes a chronic ailment that prevents you from fully performing your job, you have an occupational disease.
In Colorado, a worker who suffers an occupational injury or disease is entitled to all of the same benefits as someone who’s injured in an accident—and they also have the same reporting requirements. The only difference is that instead of the deadline for reporting an injury or for filing a Workers’ Claim for Compensation form being from the date of an accident, the clock starts running from the moment the injured worker discovered their occupational disease or should have known about their medical condition caused by their employment.
What Requirements Must My Employer Follow?
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 to designate at least 2 physicians or 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 injury notice. This Designated Provider List must also include the name and contact information of at least 1 representative from the company (if self-insured) or the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier.
If you are injured outside of your usual workplace, you can seek medical treatment immediately and then refer to the Designated Provider List your employer is required to give you within the 7-day timeframe.
If your injuries are life-threatening, seek emergency medical attention immediately. Once emergency care is no longer required, the process outlined above applies.
Aside from emergency care, it’s very important to only see doctors or medical providers who are 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 (aside from emergency situations and injuries outside of your normal workplace), then 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, then 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, your employer must 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 Colorado’s Division of Workers’ Compensation will initiate the workers’ comp process.
Also, if your injury causes you to miss 3 or more shifts of work, then your employer is required to file a report with the DOWC.
Am I Required to File a Claim with the DOWC, Even If My Employer Did?
There’s often confusion as to whether an injured worker has to file anything with the Colorado Division of Workers’ Compensation if their employer follows the procedures they’re supposed to.
The statute of limitations for a workers’ compensation claim – or the maximum time after an event that legal action can be initiated – is 2 years in most cases. The only way for this deadline NOT to 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 2-year anniversary if your treatment lasts longer than 2 years (or 3 years in other cases). This issue gets 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 always in your best interest to be ahead of the curve and file a claim with the DOWC. Doing so will ensure you will receive benefits for as long as you need them.
Talk with a Colorado Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today – Free, No-Risk Consultation
We invite you to discuss the details of your workers’ compensation claim with a lawyer at The Babcock Firm. If your case falls within our practice area and we feel our representation can benefit you, an attorney will meet with you for an in-depth consultation, at no charge. We’re here to help you secure the best possible 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.