What Exactly Is Workers’ Compensation Law?
Workers’ compensation law was enacted over 100 years ago with the purpose of compensating workers who were hurt on the job. Workers’ Compensation laws vary from state to state, and I practice solely in Colorado. If someone has been injured on the job and accrues medical bills, suffers lost wages, or is facing permanent effects related to an injury, then they are entitled to benefits under the law.
What Industries And Sectors Are Covered By Special Workers’ Compensation Law?
Every industry and sector that has employees—even if there is only one employee—must be covered by workers’ compensation laws. For example, if a company has just one full-time employee, it is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. The exception to this is if a worker is classified as an independent contractor. This is something that people need to be really careful about because employers often improperly designate workers as “independent contractors”. Just because an employer labels a worker an “independent contractor” and does not deduct taxes from their paycheck does not mean that the worker is a true “independent contractor.”
An independent contractor is someone who has their own business and is not under the direction or control of anyone else. For example, a general contractor on a job site hires a stonemason to build the fireplace. The stonemason advertises his services to other contractors, uses his own tools, submits a bid for the work to be done and creates his own schedule. That stonemason is an independent contractor. However, if a general contractor tells the stonemason when they need to show up to the site, provides them with tools, gives all direction and control about the job, oversees all quality control, pays hourly instead of based on a bid or contract, dictates work hours and break time, and the stonemason does not have his own business that markets to others, then the stonemason would be considered an employee—regardless of whether the general contractor labels them as an independent contractor. Since the second example of the stonemason would be considered an employee, he is covered under workers’ compensation laws.
Are All Employers Required To Carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance?
All employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Falsely designating a worker as an “independent contractor” does not take away this legal requirement.
How Long Does Someone Have To File A Workers’ Compensation Claim?
The statute of limitations to file a workers’ compensation claim is two years from the date of injury or the date when the person should have known of the injury. Many employers post signs in the workplace that state that an employee has four days within which to report an injury, but in reality, an employee has two years to file a claim. For example, if an employee was injured on January 1st of a certain year, then they would have until December 31st two years later to file a claim in writing with the Division of Workers’ Compensation.
With that said, there can be some negative consequences if an employee knows that they have been injured and chooses to delay reporting it to their employer. For example, if an employee were to miss work due to an injury but failed to report that injury, then they could lose compensation for lost wages that they otherwise would have received. In addition, the longer someone delays in reporting, the more likely it is that the insurance carrier will deny the claim.
The best decision would be to file a written report of injury with the employer as soon as possible and keep a copy of it. If an employer were to ignore the report then the employee should file the workers’ compensation claim directly with the Division of Workers’ Compensation.
One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is to assume that their work-related injury will improve, and therefore delay in reporting it to their employer. In some cases, injured workers will even seek medical treatment prior to filing a report of the injury. When an employee chooses to do this, the insurance carrier will often argue that since the employee sought care from their own medical provider, the injury did not happen on the job.
For more information on Workers’ Compensation Law In Colorado, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (303) 900-7274 today.
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