Colorado’s workers’ compensation system protects employees who are injured on the job by replacing lost wages while they recover. The CDLE’s Division of Workers’ Compensation (www.coworkforce.com/DWC) administers the law.
The system works as a no-fault guarantee. Employees who can show they were hurt while working are entitled to a portion of their earnings and paid medical care for the injuries suffered. They needn’t prove that their employer was negligent. In exchange for the no-fault guarantee, workers can’t sue for negligence and collect far more than just lost wages and medical payments.
In some situations, employees aren’t eligible for workers’ comp payments. For example, they can’t collect benefits if the injury:
Is not accidental within the meaning of the law (intentional acts of co-workers are considered accidental since the injured worker could not have anticipated them in the normal course of work).
Did not arise out of employment.
Did not occur in the course of employment.
Employers aren’t off the hook just because an employee was drinking when an injury occurred. The worker must be intoxicated to the point of being totally incapacitated before the employer can use that as a defense—even if the intoxication contributed to the injury.
Further, unlike in many other states, employers are always responsible for the negligent actions of fellow employees when the workers are acting within the scope of their jobs. Employers may not use the so-called “fellow servant” rule as a defense.
Under the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act, employers are held accountable for a variety of workplace injuries: for instance, those that occur in common areas of the workplace, such as parking lots, driveways and entrance roads.
Virtually all Colorado businesses must carry workers’ compensation insurance. Employers that wish to self-insure must apply to the Division of Workers’ Compensation’s executive director for permission to do so. (Partners and sole proprietors aren’t required to carry workers’ compensation coverage but may opt in to the program.)
Tips for reducing workers’ comp costs
One way you can reduce your workers’ compensation costs is to encourage employees to return to work as soon as they’re able.
For example, you can make available light-duty positions for injured employees who may not be ready to return to more demanding jobs. Work with your insurance carrier to develop a light-duty program.
ADA, and workers’ comp
Employees injured at work may also be considered disabled under the ADA or the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) and have a serious medical condition under the FMLA.
So, make sure you coordinate any unpaid leave and reasonable accommodations, such as light-duty work or , in handling ADA, CADA and FMLA claims with the insurance carrier. That’s because nothing will sink a case faster than evidence that an employer acquiesced to a workers’ comp claim but refused to allow an FMLA claim for the same condition.
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