If you are injured or become ill at work in Colorado, in addition to having your medical care paid for by workers' comp, you have the right to be compensated for part of the wages you are losing due to your inability to work. (For information about filing a claim, see our article on eligibility and filing for workers' comp in Colorado.)
You are eligible to begin receiving temporary compensation benefits after you have missed more than three shifts or more than three days of work as a result of your work-related injury. You will be paid for the first three days of missed work only if you are out of work for at least two weeks.
If you are completely unable to work, you will be paid temporary total disability benefits. These benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage, up to a maximum amount set by law each year. As of July 1, 2017, the maximum benefit is $948.15 per week. If you are able to work, but you're earning less due to your injuries, you can receive temporary partial disability benefits. These benefits are two-thirds of the difference in your earnings, up to the same weekly maximum.
Temporary benefits continue until one of the following happens:
If your doctor finds that you will be unable to work in any capacity due to a permanent and total disability, you will receive benefits at your temporary total disability rate for life. You should be aware, however, that any Social Security or other disability pension you receive may reduce the amount you will receive in workers' compensation benefits. (See our article on the workers' comp offset for more information.)
Colorado workers' compensation also pays for permanent partial disabilities, including scheduled impairments, whole body impairments, and disfigurement.
A "scheduled impairment" is a loss of function to certain body parts listed in a state schedule, including feet, toes, hands, fingers, arms, eyes, ears or teeth. The doctor will give you a disability rating, in the form of a percentage, which will determine the amount of your benefits.
Scheduled impairments are paid for a number of weeks determined by the state schedule. For example, a total loss of use of an arm at the shoulder is worth 208 weeks of compensation. The loss of a hand below the wrist will get you 104 weeks of compensation, and complete deafness in both ears 139 weeks. The maximum weekly benefit for a scheduled impairment is $297.56 (as of July 1, 2017).
A "whole person impairment" is any permanent loss of function that is not listed on the state schedule. For example, this includes mental impairments, impairment of the spine, or impairment of the organs, such as the lungs. Unlike scheduled impairments, discussed above, whole person impairments do not have a set number of weeks for which payment will be made. Instead, your doctor will evaluate the severity of the loss of function and rate your disability on that basis. The maximum weekly benefit for whole person impairments is $521 (as of July 1, 2017).
Scars on a part of the body that are visible, such as on the face or arms, are eligible for additional compensation up to approximately $5,019.83. For certain severe disfigurements, such as burn scars on the face or other severe facial scars, or complete or partial loss of a limb, a maximum payment of up to $10,037.89 is available.
Colorado also places caps on how much a worker can receive in temporary total disability benefits and permanent partial disability benefits. For impairments of 25% or less, the maximum is $87,470.18; for impairments of more than 25%, the maximum is $174,938.15.
If you are awarded permanent disability benefits on the basis of a partial disability, such as for a scheduled impairment, disfigurement, or whole person impairment, you have the right to receive the benefits as a lump-sum payment of up to $10,000. You can also request multiple lump-sum payments of $10,000 up to a total of $60,000.
If you take lump-sum payments, your award will get reduced by 4% a year. The Claims Management Unit will run calculations for you to see whether a lump sum payment makes sense. Call the Customer Service Unit for assistance. This may be something worthwhile to discuss with an attorney.
Caution: If you request to receive lump sums for more than $10,000, you will be waiving the right to appeal your impairment rating. It is inadvisable to do this without first consulting with a workers' comp attorney.
If you believe you are not being properly compensated for your injury or illness and you disagree with the rating your doctor has provided, you have the right to request an independent medical opinion. You may wish to have an attorney assist you with this.
Likewise, you have the right to appeal other decisions made regarding your case, such as whether you are totally and permanently disabled, or whether you are receiving the correct amount of bi-weekly cash benefits.
For more information, see our article on appealing a workers' comp denial in Colorado.
You have the right to get an attorney to assist you. An initial consultation with a workers' comp attorney must be free, so it makes sense to go to one.
Colorado workers' compensation attorneys are not permitted to charge you a fee directly. The attorney will be paid a percentage of your workers' comp insurance award if you are awarded benefits.