The most common injuries covered by workers’ compensation are physical injuries that employees suffer during work-related accidents. However, there are several other types of work-related injuries that are covered in Colorado;
- Occupational diseases are covered by workers compensation. This means diseases that can be fairly traced to employment or working conditions and that are considered natural consequences of certain types of work. These diseases depend on your job. For example, there are special rules that apply to emergency services providers, peace officers, and firefighters. Exposure to, or contraction of, Hepatitis C by these types of workers is presumed to result from their employment. With firefighters employed for at least five years, cancers of the brain, skin, digestive system, hematological system, or genitourinary system, are considered occupational diseases and presumed to result from their employment.
- Illnesses or death caused by, or resulting from, mental or emotional stress, are generally not covered by workers’ compensation unless a claimant provides evidence demonstrating the conditions were proximately and solely caused by employment hazards.
- Similarly, heart attacks are not covered by workers’ compensation unless a claimant provides evidence showing the heart attack was caused by unusual exertion required by their job.
While most on-the job injuries are covered by workers’ compensation, there are certain exceptions and situations where your benefits may be reduced. Under Colorado law, the following circumstances can reduce coverage by 50 percent;
- Where injury is caused by the employee’s willful failure to use the safety devices provided by employer
- Where injury is caused by the employee’s willful failure to obey safety rules adopted by employer
- Where the employee willfully misled their employer regarding their physical ability to perform the job, and the injury was caused by this insufficiency
- Where the injury results from the presence of illegal drugs or alcohol in the employee’s system.
There is a statutory schedule of injuries where employees are entitled to additional compensation for a certain number of weeks, above the compensation for a temporary disability. The number of weeks depends on the severity of injuries. For example, the loss of a hand below the wrist carries 104 weeks of additional compensation, whereas total loss of hearing in one ear carries 35 weeks. When an employee has suffered injuries resulting in serious disfigurement, they are entitled to additional compensation as well.
If you are injured during work, advise your employer as soon as possible and keep records of any medical care and evaluations you receive. You’ll want to discuss your situation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can guide you through the process.