How to File a Workers' Compensation Claim in Colorado

Learn when and how to file your workers' comp claim in Colorado.

Colorado workers’ compensation pays benefits to employees who are injured on the job. Workers may receive medical treatment, compensation for wage loss, and other financial assistance. To collect benefits in Colorado, you must take certain steps, including giving timely notice of your injury to your employer.

How Does the Colorado Workers’ Compensation System Work?

In Colorado, most employers are required to have workers’ compensation coverage. An employer can get coverage either by purchasing a workers’ comp policy from a private insurance company or by receiving certification from the state to self-insure. (Only large, financially stable employers typically qualify to self-insure.) The Division of Workers’ Compensation oversees all workers’ comp claims in the state.

Like all other states, Colorado has a no-fault workers’ compensation system. This means you do not need to show that your employer was at fault for your injury. As long as your injury happened while you were carrying out your work activities, you will typically be eligible for benefits.

Eligible workers may receive a variety of benefits, including:

  • temporary disability benefits (payments for wage loss)
  • permanent disability benefits (for loss of use of a body part or other permanent disabilities)
  • reasonable and necessary medical care
  • vocational rehabilitation (training or education for a new line of work), and
  • mileage to and from authorized doctors’ appointments.
For more information on the types and amounts of benefits available, see Workers' Compensation Benefits FAQ.

How Do I Report an Injury?

Notifying your employer is the first step to starting a workers’ compensation claim. In Colorado, it is not enough to tell your employer about your injury in person or over the phone. You must give written notice within four days of your injury. While late notice is permitted, you may lose one day of compensation for each day you delayed in giving notice.

Regardless of this deadline, you should report your injury as quickly as possible. Employers and insurance companies are skeptical of delayed claims and tend to deny them. Giving notice and getting treatment early on will reduce the likelihood of a claim denial.

When you notify your employer, provide as much detail as possible, including:

  • when the accident happened
  • how you hurt yourself, and
  • what symptoms you are experiencing.

Once you report your injury, your employer should send you to its occupational doctor. Except for emergency treatment, you must treat with your employer's designated doctor. It is important to provide the doctor with accurate information about the cause of your injuries and the severity of your symptoms. Insurance companies rely heavily on medical records of initial treatment when they evaluate claims. Either downplaying or exaggerating your symptoms may result in a denial of benefits.

Do I Need to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Typically, injured workers in Colorado do not have to file a formal workers’ compensation claim. Instead, your employer must file a First Report of Injury with its insurance company within ten days of receiving notice of your injury. This form triggers the insurance company’s duty to process and review your claim.

If your employer refuses to file a First Report of Injury with its insurer, you can initiate a claim yourself by filing a Workers’ Claim for Compensation form. You must file this claim within two years of your injury (or within three years if you have a good reason for your late filing).

What Happens After I File My Claim?

Once it has received your claim, the insurance company will determine your eligibility for benefits. Its investigation may involve:

  • reviewing your medical records
  • analyzing your work experience, education, and wages
  • ordering a medical examination to assess your condition, and
  • sending you for a functional capacity evaluation (an assessment of your ability to perform work duties).

Under Colorado law, the insurance company must either approve or deny your workers’ compensation claim within 20 days. If your claim is approved, you will start receiving temporary disability payments and other benefits. Unfortunately, insurance companies deny many workers’ compensation claims. (For common grounds for denial, see Denied Workers' Compensation Claims.)

Can I Appeal a Denied Workers’ Compensation Claim?

If your claim is denied, you have the right to appeal within 45 days. Unless your claim is very simple, you should consider hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer for your appeal. The insurance company will have a lawyer and you may be at a disadvantage if you proceed without an attorney. For a list of workers' comp attorneys in your area, see our Lawyer Directory and select your state.

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