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Denver Workers' Compensation Law Blog

OSHA: Ringling Bros. failed to protect acrobats in accident

An acrobat has some inherent risks when performing. Audience members at a Colorado show may be worried that the people could fall during an act, leading to on-the-job injury cases. Fortunately, most shows will go off without a hitch, though that wasn’t the case earlier this year.

A carabiner gauged to hold 10,000 pounds was supporting eight acrobats weighing roughly 1,500 pounds at a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in May when it failed. The acrobats, who were hanging by their hair, fell 15 to 20 feet to the ground, causing severe spinal cord injuries, open fractures and even a lacerated liver. A ninth person on the ground also suffered injuries when the acrobats fell. While two of the performers have returned from work, a spokesperson for the circus said there are no plans to resume the act.

When should I hire an attorney for a workers’ compensation claim?

Not every workers’ compensation claim requires legal assistance. For many people, a minor injury that does not result in missing an extended period of time can be handled between the employee and the insurer without the need for a lawyer.

Yet with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that nearly 3 million people suffered a nonfatal workplace injury in 2012, there are a large number of cases in which hiring an attorney is beneficial. For example, people who have suffered an injury or illness while on the job are entitled to certain benefits. If you feel you are not receiving the compensation to which you are entitled, no matter how small or big the case is, it is important to contact an attorney.

OSHA investigating death of oil rig worker in Colorado

The oil industry has long been known as a dangerous one for workers. In Colorado, there are many drilling sites and facilities that, without proper preventative measures in place, could see a number of on-the-job-injury cases. As a recent incident points out, the issues with one company in particular are widespread.

In 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Wyoming-based driller Cyclone for five serious violations and two repeat infractions. Those citations were in regard to hazards including electrical issues, fire-related matters and falls. The company settled its $65,600 fine down to $27,400, and some of the citations were dropped. In an unrelated incident, a well fire at a Cyclone rig injured three people in North Dakota.

Determine if your injury qualifies for workers’ compensation

In order for your injury to qualify for workers’ compensation, it must have occurred while you were working, or it must be an occupational disease that developed as a result of your work. At Sullivan, Sullivan & McGuire, we regularly work with Colorado employees who have suffered an injury and need to file for benefits.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, sprains, strains and tears are the most common type of on-the-job injury. The most prevalent injuries stem from the following:

Workers’ compensation cannot offer job protection

People who are injured on the job in Colorado may not be able to work for some time. Unfortunately, there is no workers’ compensation law that requires an employer to hold a job for an injured worker. In some cases, a company may have to hire someone in order to continue operations, and they may have the right to replace someone who is on leave.

However, the Family and Medical Leave Act can offer certain levels of job protection. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that workers’ compensation and FMLA can operate together, with workers’ comp leave counting against and employee’s FMLA leave. If an worker suffers a qualifying injury or illness, the employer must notify the employee that the leave will be considered FMLA, which can provide as much as 12 weeks of unprotected pay.

Will workers’ compensation cover damages for pain and suffering?

Seeking workers’ compensation is not the same as filing a lawsuit; it is filing a claim with an insurance provider. Therefore, the damages often associated with a personal injury lawsuit, such as pain and suffering, are not covered through a workers’ compensation policy.

According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, all private and public employers in Colorado must have workers’ compensation coverage as long as there is at least one person who is employed either full-time or part-time. If you suffer a job-related injury that qualifies, that policy will pay for the medical expenses associated with treatment as well as potentially pay for time you miss from work. 

Determining how much your workers’ compensation claim will pay

At Sullivan, Sullivan & McGuire, we regularly work with employees who have questions regarding the monetary benefits of workers’ compensation policies. The more you know about the law, the better equipped you are to fight for what you deserve.

A workers’ compensation policy is put in place to cover the cost of your medical expenses when you are injured on the job. Colorado places caps on your benefits based on how a physician rates the injury. An injury with a permanency rating of 25 percent or lower will only qualify for up to $75,000 in benefits; an injury with a higher rating will qualify for up to $150,000.

Ski resort worker’s death results in $14,000 OSHA fine

Colorado is known for its skiing industry, as people from all over the country often make the trek up local mountains to enjoy the ride. As fun as the sport may be, it does come with its share of risks, even for the people who work at the resort. In order to avoid a workers’ comp claim or settlement, there are several things a ski business should do. As one local facility learned the hard way, monitoring the weather is a key part of that equation.

The owner of the Wolf Creek ski area is currently facing federal charges associated with the death of a patroller who worked for the business. The patroller had been conducting snow safety research in March outside the ski area’s boundary. An avalanche occurred and trapped the man.

The most common hazards construction workers face

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, one in five people who are killed on the job were working in the construction industry. The agency reports that someone on a construction site in Colorado or across the country who has suffered a work injury that resulted in a fatality is most likely to have fallen, as those incidents account for nearly 36.9 percent of all construction deaths.

OSHA has actually dubbed falls as one of the “Fatal Four” factors that contribute to the deaths of people who work in the construction industry. The other causes are the following:

How do I file a workers’ compensation claim in Colorado?

There are several key things you should know if you have suffered a work injury. In Colorado, you only have four days to provide your employer written notice of the injury or illness. Failure to work within the timeframe could mean that you will sacrifice as much as a day’s worth of compensation for every day the notice is late. Someone else may alert your employer on your behalf if you are physically unable to do so.

Once you alert your employer, the company is responsible for contacting the insurance company with the claim. According to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, your employer must alert the provider within 10 days of gaining knowledge of the on-the-job injury. If you have missed more than either three days or three shifts, you may be eligible for wage replacement. Within 20 days, the insurance company will either admit or deny the claim in writing.

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