|First of all I want to thank all of the local members for
your questions about workers compensation and to encourage our other members to feel
comfortable in asking questions by using this Web Page. Remember, you should not
feel that any of your questions are unimportant. All your questions are important
and will be answered by me in a courteous manner.
For those of you that may live and work somewhat afar from the Denver metro
area and are injured on the job, my partner Larry Free and I can help each and every one
of you regardless of where you live. We can fully represent you and advocate for the
benefits that are appropriate for you. Many of your conferences with you can be
handled by telephone. We recognize that gas and transportation is expensive so we
have put in place our telephone conference program.
On To The Updates
Mileage - You are now entitled to 30 cents a
mile for your transportation expenditures when traveling in your vehicle to any authorized
medical provider including doctors, therapists, pharmacies, a health club or hospital.
Overtime - When your authorized doctor
states in writing that your injury prevents you from working before you have reached
maximum medical improvement, you will receive 2/3 of your average weekly wage tax free
every two weeks. This money is referred to as temporary disability. What you
need to be aware of is that your average weekly wage MUST include OVERTIME which, if
included, will increase your average weekly wage thereby increasing your temporary
disability while you are off work.
Health Insurance (While on Temporary Disability)
- If your employer provides health insurance at the time of your injury and you receive a
letter stating that the employer will no longer pay for that insurance and the letter goes
on to state that you have the OPTION of paying for it, then you have received a COBRA
letter. If you don't pay for this insurance out of your funds within the time limit
stated in the letter then you will have no insurance. If you decide to pay for the
health insurance (and you can shop around beyond the plan offered by your employer) within
the prescribed time period then the cost of the insurance will be considered an addition
to your average weekly wage and 2/3 of the amount paid for that insurance will be added to
your temporary total disability up the the maximum you are allowed to receive for
temporary total disability.
Modified Work - When you are on temporary
disability you simply cannot do any work at all for your employer or any employer.
Your authorized doctor can change that status by simply writing to your employer
that your restrictions may allow you to go back to work on a modified work schedule.
That could mean doing your regular work at fewer hours, doing your regular work
with some help, working a lighter duty job with the same of less hours or any of the
number of combinations of factors. Remember, the compensation laws allow you to be
on modified duty at a LESSER pay. Only a collective bargaining contract can regulate
pay beyond what an employer may be allowed to do at will.
Modified Work (Talking with the Comp Doctor)
-What I find disturbing is when the comp doctor tells the employer that you can go back to
modified work duties and the doctor and the employer agree on the job you can do and then
you get a call from the employer to go back to work and YOU DID NOT have any idea that
this was going to happen and YOU had not input at all. How to PREVENT this problem
is what we need to discuss. First of all:
1. Make it known to the doctor at your first visit that you
want to DISCUSS directly with him or her when it may make sense for you to try modified
2. You should anticipate that the doctor is going to decide,
during the course of your care, whether there will be a time you could do modified work.
Let me discuss this with you so that you can proceed in properly developing a plan
to determine the kind of modified you may be able to accomplish a the right time with the
right amount of hours you could handle.
3. This is a brief outline of some, but not all, of the items
that fall under this category. Remember, you are under enough stress, due to your
injury, and to have to deal with going back to some work without you being part of the
process is very stressful.
The serious reason for bringing this to your attention is
that if you return to modified work and there is CONFUSION as to what you can and can not
do because you were not part of the process and the employer terminates you because you
were AT FAULT for not doing the modified work as you were suppose to do then you face
losing your temporary disability forever. I must say that you this issue has jut
been argued before the Colorado Supreme Court a few weeks ago. What we hope the
court will say is that if you are fired from your job at the time of the injury or while
you are on modified duty and your termination is YOUR FAULT then you will not be denied
temporary disability forever, but, you can be placed BACK on temporary disability once the
doctor DETERMINES you cannot work again. For instance, you get hurt - you go on TTD,
the doctor than recommends modified work, you go on modified work, you then get terminated
and it's your fault, you lose your TTD but then the doctor says you need back surgery and
states once again you cannot work then you back on TTD.
Permanent Impairment - Permanent impairment
is the percentage of your physical disability. Let me just express that this a very
complicated area and what the doctor gives you as impairment IS NOT, I repeat IS NOT
automatic and that you are not "stuck" on whatever impairment you receive from
the doctor SELECTED by your EMPLOYER. Of course, there are many instances that the
original impairment rating is fair but how can you be sure. I can help you with this
issue in the following ways. Communication between you and your doctor many times
involves words and expressions that your doctor relates to. For instance, you may
tell the doctor you don't feel good. That expression may appear to your doctor that
you have mild discomfort and that you are getting better. But what you think you are
telling the doctor is that the "pain is so bad that you are miserable".
Another example is when you tell the doctor your back is hurting you and you fail
to tell the doctor you have serious pain down your leg then you have potentially
eliminated the doctor recommending an MRI to determine the extent of bulging disk.
So you can see the importance of US discussing how to TRUTHFULLY communicate to the
doctor throughout your care the exact nature and extent of your injury.
Parting comments. I view the most important piece of
your concerns when you get injured is to get well enough to continue to work and provide
for you and your family. Good health care is most important to achieve this goal.
However, medical science can not always come to your rescue and many times you have
to face the difficult alternatives. These difficult alternatives involve a change of
lifestyle, finding a way to obtain employment that are within your permanent restrictions,
determining if you are a candidate for social security or a pension and other difficult
life changes you may have to consider. When we come to the conclusion of your case
and whether you are able to return to work or face other challenges the permanent
impairment does have importance as it equates into how much the case is worth and
certainly you should get what you are entitled to receive. Many times the initial
rating DOES NOT give you this entitlement and you have the RIGHT to appeal that rating
through a process provided by the workers compensation laws. Remember there are TIME
limits to these appeals just like there are time limits when filing a grievance.
I hope this update is helpful to you and that it will cause
you to think of other questions you would like to ask me and to share my answers with
If you would like to contact me or my partner Larry Free we
can be reached as follows:
1199 Bannock Street
Denver, CO 80204
We do everything possible to contact you within 24 hours, if
Larry or I are not available at the time you call.