Business owners with a certain number of employees are required by state law in Colorado to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Period. If having workers’ compensation insurance and giving benefits to all injured workers were the same thing, however, workers’ compensation attorneys wouldn’t be needed. Businesses struggle with the workers’ compensation insurance requirement, particularly in high-risk businesses like manufacturing or construction.
This leads to all kinds of problems for workers, including being misrepresented as an independent contractor instead of an employee or being denied benefits because they’re told they weren’t acting in the course and scope of their work duties when they were injured. This much space for argument makes workers’ compensation attorneys vital to the system because workers, particularly when injured, shouldn’t have to try to understand the system when they should be focused on feeling better.
Businesses in Colorado have more of an incentive to buy workers’ compensation insurance than ever. Since 2012, insurance premiums have grown faster than losses. For Colorado workers’ compensation lawyers, that means companies are paying less for the workers’ compensation premiums the companies pay. In October of 2015, the Colorado Division of Insurance cut the average loss cost of premiums almost 2%. The premium average cost was a flat rate from 2014 through 2015.
What does this mean for workers? Well, in general, this means workers are reporting fewer injuries on the job. Since workers are reporting fewer injuries, insurance compensation companies are paying out less money in medical benefits, wage loss, and overall compensation, so workers’ compensation insurance is getting cheaper. Colorado’s Commissioner of Insurance, Marguerite Salazar, says “this positive development comes from the work by employers and employees to better manage workers’ compensation costs.” Essentially, workers and workplaces are getting safer or more workers are choosing to not report compensable injuries because of pressure from their jobs.
Often, a workers’ compensation claim damages the relationship between an employee and employer. This is a natural and unfortunate consequence of the system. If the system were perfect, workers and their employers would be able to maintain a strong relationship even after an injured worker recovers and wants to return to work. But insurance premiums go up if the insurance policy is tapped regardless of the reason so employers can sometimes see people who file for workers’ compensation as antagonistic to a degree. Especially when the employer is smaller and doesn’t have as many workers to take care of, employers can tend to see someone filing a workers’ compensation claim as a personal attack on a small business.
Workers, on the other hand, deserve the right to visit doctors and seek medical treatment for injuries they suffer on the job. That’s why the workers’ compensation system exists. It is a no-fault system so as long as the injuries are reported the right way at the right time and qualify, fault shouldn’t factor into treatment. The push and pull between employers and employees makes Workers’ Compensation a difficult field to navigate without insulting everyone involved.
In 2015, accident frequency in the workplace in Colorado went up. More inexperienced workers in the workplace due to a stronger United States economy means jobs with high hazards have had higher amounts of work-related injuries since 2012. From 2012 to 2013 alone, work-related construction injuries that were non-fatal went up 9.5 percent. Older workers are also staying at their jobs longer with retirement ages going up and work injuries reflect this trend. From 2012 to 2013, the frequency of accidents reported for workers 65 years and older rose almost 20 percent.
Not only are accidents getting more frequent, they are becoming more severe. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on-the-job construction fatalities from 2013 to 2014 rose almost 10 percent. Hospital and prescription costs are rising more quickly than inflation. These are the main costs for workers’ compensation claims.
So how is workers’ compensation insurance in Colorado becoming, as a whole, cheaper? One answer is the interaction between workers and the workers’ compensation system. It’s understandable that workers would hesitate to report injuries. People love their jobs and want to keep them. But without treatment for medical injuries sustained on the job, uninsured workers will have no recourse for treatment. And without use, the system will atrophy and eventually disappear, which takes out one of the most important safeguards for workers on the job that exist in Colorado today.
Workers’ Compensation can be difficult, confusing, and very complex. Kaplan Morrell has helped thousands of injured workers since 1997 get the benefits they deserve. Contact us at (866) 356-9898 for your free consultation to review your workers’ compensation case.