Monday, November 19, 2012

Colorado workers comp premiums to rise

It appears employers will have to plan on higher premiums for workers compensation in the coming year. As noted in this article the insurance
rates will be going up. It is asserted that the loss costs which pertain to lost wages and medical payments have been increasing by 5.2 per cent. You can expect many insurers will be raising their premium rates to make up for this. Pinnacol Assurance intends to raise rates by an average of 9.5 per cent as noted in this other article. The Pinnacol claim is that workers compensation has not been profitable since 2006. Colorado employers are still paying Pinnacol 32 per cent less than what they paid in 2006 even with this raise. At least that is the claim. Given the economy it seems difficult to fathom this raise. I have always thought that companies who were not profitable for many years would not be around but Pinnacol seems healthy enough to be doing okay. In any event this is the third year for rate increases in Colorado. Certainly we all know that medical costs still appear to be going up. I do point out that not every state agrees to raise rates and as pointed out here in Massachusetts the state questioned the figures as inflated and unreasonable. The point is that a state should carefully review matters and not assume the facts asserted by the industry are accurate. Seems like common sense to me.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Colorado case on Firefighters and cancer

This week the Court of Appeals issued a decision in the Littleton case. In this case a Littleton firefighter developed brain cancer. He filed a claim in workers compensation which was contested. The firefighter relied on a recent
Colorado statute which provides for a statutory presumption that certain cancers came from on the job exposures for firefighters. The Respondents fought hard and presented several witnesses to assert that his cancer was not from firefighting. The judge at the hearing decided against the claimant firefighter who then appealed. At next level of appeal it was decided in the firefighters favor so the Respondents appealed to the Court of Appeals. This court decision issued this week also determined in favor of the firefighter. The court went about analyzing the statute and concluding the efforts to provide evidence the cancer did not come from firefighting were not enough to overcome the statutory presumption the cancer was work related. It seemed the medical evidence the Respondents presented was really attacking the statute and in order to overcome that presumption you must present evidence as to where the cancer came from other than work activities. At least that is my view but read the case. In that respect the Respondent burden is very high. If fire fighters had to prove their exposure to toxic things caused a cancer it would be quite difficult. Fire fighters do not monitor all the chemicals they are exposed to or the level of that exposure. The other side can often come up with medical experts to provide opinions such exposures are not likely to cause cancer. So when the firefighter can rely on the statute he has a big edge. UPDATE: This case is now at the Colorado Supreme Court as of October 2013. Look for its decision in 2014.