Colorado workers’ compensation pays injured workers a series of different benefits. Depending on the nature of your injury and its severity, you may receive wage loss benefits, medical treatment, and other compensation. Below, we explain how workers’ comp benefits are calculated in Colorado. (To learn how to get the claims process started, read our article on filing a Colorado workers’ comp claim.)
In Colorado, the following types of benefits are available through workers’ comp:
While many insurance companies offer vocational assistance (help finding work or additional job training), Colorado law does not require the payment of vocational benefits.
State law limits workers’ comp benefits, and certain types of losses are not covered. Colorado sets a maximum weekly workers’ compensation benefit each year (as of July 1, 2016, $939.62). And, your benefits may be reduced under certain circumstances (for example, if your injury was caused by your violation of a reasonable work safety rule). Finally, injured workers cannot receive compensation for pain and suffering: the mental and physical stress you suffered as a result of your injury.
Temporary disability benefits are paid while you are recovering from your injuries. In Colorado, you may be eligible for either temporary total disability (TTD) or temporary partial disability (TPD). Temporary disability benefits are not paid for your first three days off work, unless your disability lasts more than two weeks.
If you’re unable to perform any type of work, you will be eligible for temporary total disability benefits. These benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage (up to the state’s maximum benefit). TTD benefits are paid until you either return to work or reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI occurs when your doctor determines that your condition will no longer improve with treatment.
If you can return to work, but you aren’t able to earn as much, Colorado workers’ comp pays a partial benefit. Your temporary partial disability benefit is two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury and post-injury wages. For example, if you used to earn $750 in weekly wages, but you now can only earn $350, you would get $266.67 in TPD benefits ($750 - $350 = $400; .6666 x $400 = $266.67).
Once your doctor determines you are at MMI, you will be evaluated for a permanent disability. If your injury or occupational illness prevents you from performing any type of work, you will be entitled to permanent total disability (PTD) benefits. PTD benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage, up to the state’s maximum benefit (in other words, the same as your temporary total disability rate). You will receive PTD benefits as long as you are totally disabled (potentially for life).
In Colorado, there are two types of permanent partial disability benefits: scheduled loss and whole person impairment benefits. These benefits are available regardless of whether you lose time from work or suffer a reduction in wages.
You are eligible for scheduled loss benefits if you’ve had an amputation of, or lost the functional use of, a body part listed in Colorado’s schedule. For amputation or a total loss of use of a listed body part, you will receive benefits for the period of time stated in the schedule. Your scheduled loss benefit rate is not based on your average weekly wage. Instead, you are paid a statutory rate set by the state each year ($294.93 in 2017).
The schedule lists the following number of weeks for the stated body part:
Other scheduled body parts include fingers, toes, and teeth (partial amputations and losses are also covered). You can find the complete schedule at the website of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.
For a partial loss of use of a scheduled body part, you will receive benefits for a proportionate number of weeks. For example, for a 50% loss of use of the arm at the shoulder, you would receive 104 weeks of benefits.
If you injured a body part that’s not listed on Colorado’s schedule, you may be eligible for whole person impairment (unscheduled) benefits. Whole person impairment benefits are based on a series of factors. First, your doctor will assign you an impairment rating based on your percentage of lost function as to the body as a whole. Next, you will be assigned an age factor, based on how old you are at the time of MMI. (Colorado’s age factors are available online.)
The insurance company will calculate your whole person impairment benefit by multiplying your impairment rating by your age factor and then by 400 weeks. You will receive two-thirds your average weekly wage for the resulting number of weeks.
For example, suppose you injured your back—resulting in a 20% permanent impairment. At the time of MMI, you were 25 years old. You will receive 136 weeks of benefits (0.2 (impairment rating) x 1.7 (age factor) x 400 = 136 weeks).
If an injury or illness results in death, the worker’s dependents may receive death benefits. Death benefits are two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage. For 2017, the minimum weekly death benefit is $234.96, and the maximum weekly benefit is $939.82. A surviving dependent spouse receives lifetime benefits (unless he or she remarries). A dependent child’s benefits continue until the child becomes 18 years old (21 years old if a full-time student). If the deceased worker does not have dependents, the worker’s estate (or the parents of a deceased minor) receive $15,000. Additionally, the insurance company must pay up to $7,000 for the worker’s reasonable funeral and burial expenses.
Contact a lawyer immediately if the workers’ compensation insurance company disputes your claim or reduces your benefits due to perceived wage earning capacity. A workers’ compensation lawyer can evaluate your claim and ensure that you receive the maximum benefits allowed in your claim. (For more information, see our article on whether you need a lawyer for your workers’ comp case.)