Thursday, January 28, 2010

Three Proposed Colorado Bills

In 2010 we will see several bills that are introduced which would impact Colorado Workers Compensation if passed. Three that have already been submitted are interesting. The first concerns putting restrictions on surveillance. Many claimants are followed and video is taken as part of an insurers investigation. I remember once walking into an opposing attorneys office and seeing mounds of videotapes. Anyone with a workers comp claim should expect surveillance especially when they go shopping. In any event read this proposed bill on surveillance here. Another proposed bill concerns increasing penalty claims from $500 to as much as $1000 a day. Read this proposed bill on penalties here. Finally another proposed bill seeks to address what it considers conflicts of interest with certain medical doctors. I would assume this is effort to prevent too cozy relationships between some doctors and Respondents. Read this proposed bill here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Privatizing Pinnacol?

Colorado given its budget shortfall is now looking at privatizing Pinnacol Assurance. I've written about Pinnacol before but this is a new twist. Originally Pinnacol was set up by the state to make it easier for employers to obtain workers comp coverage. This was especially true of employers in higher risk areas such as construction or truck driving. The state believed it could set it up to keep costs down and for the most part that is what happened. Many private insurers will naturally want to avoid some fields or have much higher rates. Pinnacol did seem to help and more then 50% of all workers comp insurance is now through Pinnacol. Time moves on and perhaps privatizing it can mean help with the state budget and let Pinnacol be truly independent which it has said it wants. I do wonder how this will all play out but the future of Pinnacol makes for an interesting story.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

New Website for Division of Workers Compensation

Colorado redesigned the website for the Division of Workers Compensation and posted it online. It certainly has a cleaner appearance and I suspect it has all that it had before. For me it will take a bit of getting used to since I was comfortable with the old website. What does happen when you give it a cleaner appearance is that it can take an extra click to find some pages. I did like the old website but it was cluttered with details. For a guy who prefers details I took to it but can see the reason to simplify it.

Friday, January 08, 2010

New Case- Respondents Cannot Pick and Choose

In this recent case just decided by the Colorado Court of Appeals that we'll call Paint Connection Plus the Respondents appealed the imposition of penalties. What happened is that the claimant's authorized or rating physician noted two injuries. For the shoulder where the claimant had two surgeries he said the claimant was at MMI (maximum medical improvement) with a rating for permanent impairment. However for the cervical area he said the claimant was not at MMI. Respondents alleged that all along they only admitted the shoulder was a work injury so they filed a Final Admission on the rating for the shoulder and denied for the cervical area. The claimant sought penalties and to strike the FAL (Final Admission of Liability). Respondents lost and appealed. At the Court of Appeals the decision was affirmed against the Respondents Paint Connection Plus and its insurer. The court noted that MMI is not divisible and the Final Admisssion was improper. There is no partial MMI and Respondents had other ways to proceed when they questioned the cervical injury. Also the FAL did not attach the worksheets used by the doctor in his shoulder rating and this was a separate ground to strike the FAL. The court ruled there can be no attachment of incomplete reports to a FAL. On penalties it is up to the judge and here they were upheld as Respondents were unreasonable in their actions.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Settlements use Specific Forms but there are twists

In Colorado the parties in any settlement must use forms called USA's which stands for Uniform Settlement Agreements. The Division put some information on this in a recent posting you can click here. Colorado in doing so was attempting to make settlements easy to understand since they are all supposed to have standardized language. Sounds simple but there are some twists here. First, there is one form to use for the pro se or unrepresented claimant and another for the claimant represented by an attorney. Next, despite the effort to standardize things the parties often have side deals that are really part of any settlement. Those must be addressed somewhere. For example often the insurer and employer may require that the employee resign and waive such matters as discrimination or bad faith. Or, there is a need to address certain medical matters. Often these side deals are really requirements for a settlement but the Division does not approve the side deals even though we all know that the parties must have them. Whether attached or not these side deals are important enough that no one should simply sign them and assume anyone at the Division will review them. They are not reviewed at all as the Division is concerned with the work injury itself. So pay attention to everything you sign as you may be giving up something valuable or dealing with certain medical issues that are important.