The challenges of filing a Colorado workers’ compensation claim, proving an injury is compensable and securing benefits often make legal help advisable.
Employees who are injured on the job in Colorado have a legal right to workers' compensation benefits, which help address medical expenses, lost wages and more. Many injury victims who are familiar with this right may view the workers' compensation claim process as straightforward and may therefore consider handling it independently. Unfortunately, navigating this process without legal representation can be a harmful decision for many workers due to the following challenges.
1. Proving compensability
Under the Colorado Workers' Compensation Act, injuries that occur under certain circumstances may not be eligible for full compensation. In disputed cases, a worker may need to prove that an injury did not involve alcohol intoxication, failure to use mandatory safety equipment or failure to follow workplace safety rules. Similarly, insurers may challenge the overall compensability of a work-related injury in any of the following cases:
- The injury arises during unusual circumstances, such as job-related travel.
- The injury consists of a repetitive stress trauma, occupational disease or other delayed-onset condition that cannot be traced to a single workplace accident.
- The injury develops due to the aggravation of a preexisting ailment.
An attorney may be able to help a worker clearly document the nature, origins and circumstances of an injury to show that it is compensable under state law.
2. Avoiding common mistakes
People who have suffered on-the-job injuries in Colorado must observe various rules and deadlines when filing claims. If an employee does not report a workplace injury to an employer within four days, he or she may lose out on a portion of his or her benefits. Workers who don't file their claims within the statute of limitations, which is three years for most injuries, may completely lose the right to seek benefits. An attorney may be able to ensure that a worker is aware of and compliant with all relevant deadlines.
3. Securing fair compensation
Without legal representation, workers may also be at risk for accepting inadequate settlements. A 2015 Department of Labor report found that injured workers often suffer financially even if they do receive workers' compensation benefits. One study found that employees who received workers' compensation benefits suffered a 15 percent decrease in expected earnings over the decade following their work-related injuries. This amounted to an average loss of $31,000.
Troublingly, many people who may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits never receive them. One study suggests that up to 97 percent of occupational disease victims go without benefits. Two other studies found that between one-fifth and one-third of amputees never received benefits for their permanent work-related disabilities. By working with an attorney, injury victims may be able to reduce their risk of going without needed compensation.
Seeking A Professional Opinion
Before ruling out the option of seeking legal assistance, injured workers may benefit from consulting with an attorney about their situation and their legal rights. An attorney may be able to advise a worker of any complications that may arise during the claim process and help the worker assess the potential drawbacks of self-representation.