Thursday, August 28, 2008

2008 Amendments to workers compensation

The Colorado Division of Workers Compensation has posted on the latest changes made to the statutes on workers compensation. You can read them right here. One change made is to prevent insurers from arguing that they only have to pay a portion of temporary and medical benefits due to prior work injuries. Such an argument could cripple the rights of injured workers when they sustain further injury. Trying to say they only owe half your medical bills or half your temporary benefits because you have had prior work injuries is now gone. Imagine being hurt on the job and now needing back surgery but the insurer says they will only pay a portion of the cost because you had prior back injuries. Insurers did not feel they should be responsible for all the benefits to be paid out when they only covered the last injury. The problem is this argument would fail to realize the last injury really was causing all the need for benefits. These amendments all became effective on July 1, 2008.

Monday, August 25, 2008 at the DNC

The Democratic National Convention starts today in Denver Colorado. One group for the disabled is indicating it will be there. The link to their site (
is here.
According to an ongoing poll disaboom is conducting about 57% are for Obama and 26% for McCain with the rest undecided. Why? At least historically the Democratic party was more pro-labor and the Republican party more pro-business. In Colorado until recently we had a Republican state and it showed in workers compensation "reform" as benefits/rights were cut back over at least a dozen years. Since the Democrats now are in the majority at the legislature and we have a democratic governor some changes have happened. The stronger the Democratic party the more likely further change for the better for workers will occur. One change I'd like to see is to throw out the scheduled rating and have everyone apply a whole person rating to every case. My view is that every permanent injury has an impact on your earning capacity. A hand injury can mean loss of a trade so it should be as serious as any other injury. Nowadays a hand injury can mean a low ball recovery even if you lose your trade/occupation and that is flat wrong. In any event if you are disabled/hurt then when you follow this election pay attention to who seems serious about the disabled and who gives lip service to helping the disabled. The wait for Social Security hearings is directly attributable to poor funding under the current administration.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Lump Sum $10000.00

You are allowed in workers comp to lump sum $10000 and this is frequently done. When you have a Final Admission and the insurance indicates $10000 (more or less) is due a claimant then you can get an advance of up to $10000 without any effort except to send a letter for the funds. This is quite different from a Petition for Lump Sum which we seldom use. The latter may bind you to the Final Admission. But getting $10000 is usually fast and easy. Plus, it does not bind you to the figures used by the insurance. You still have the ability to dispute it provided you act promptly within 30 days as noted in the Final Admission and its accompanying paperwork. What many people do not know is when a Final Admission is sent the insurer is usually obligated to honor it and pay biweekly until the money runs out or until able to change it by law. It does not send you one big check. Can you object to the figures or to the doctor's report about maximum medical improvement or his rating of impairment? Yes and you can also get $10000 of the amount due you while you object or dispute it further. For example, the Final Admission admits for $20000 and you feel that is wrong. Usually you get the first $10000 and also receive biweekly checks until the $20000 runs out or as provided by law. Often this is done to assist the claimant as we proceed to take the dispute to the next level. That can take several more months and the funds can ease his or her financial fears. One last thing....when you ask for this sum it is discounted. It is like getting money you'd normally receive over time all at once so the law uses a 4% discount calulation. Colorado adjusts it each year but you can look at the chart right here. There is some difference between whole person (back, neck, head, etc) and schedule (fingers, arms, legs, etc) and this is noted on the chart since benefits are paid differently in this two areas.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sometimes appeals are decided 8/7/08

This case just decided indicates the parties could not push the appeal along. The case, to date, decides that a traveling claimant who contracted West Nile virus while working in Colorado may be covered under workers comp while living and working in Colorado under the travel status doctrine. At first the claimant lost but he appealed to the Industrial Claim Appeals panel. The panel said the first judge had not correctly applied the law when he said the claimant had to contract it during work hours. In any event the next appeal goes to the Court of Appeals who said it was too early to decide the case because the panel had remanded it back down to have the judge take further action. This makes it premature as no benefits were yet ordered. It looks like the parties then tried to agree on a way to try to keep the appeal going but it did not work. I suspect the appeal will crank out all over again since the parties were trying to expedite it and not have to go through it again. The case took over 2 years to get to where it is now with more still to come! Read the case here.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Waiting for Social Security Disability in Oregon

In this link to an excellent article in the Oregonian we see the terrible effects of the delays in processing and approving Social Security disability benefits. Years can go by and people can die just waiting. There can be appeals and more appeals. Even in the best of cases many months go by. There are simply more claims and less people to handle them but in addition there seems a concerted effort to deny the disabled a fair assessment in the early stages. Some cases astound me. A clearly disabled person who can no longer work is denied benefits and forced to wait for his hearing a year or more. Sometimes this person earned quite good pay and to think he'd give that up for a reduced benefit is plain crazy. Many would prefer to work. The stories in this article remind us that we can do better for the disabled. Congress needs to appropriate more and the process itself needs to be realistic not so technical we lose sight of the human side. As seen in this article linked here the human side is hurting.