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Workers Compensation in Colorado

Jason Metz

Colorado requires all businesses to have workers comp for employees, with only a few exceptions.

Workers compensation insurance typically pays a portion of lost income and medical bills for a worker who's hurt while doing a job-related task. A range of work injuries from carpal tunnel to broken bones to breathing problems

Colorado workers compensation law specifies many details on the limits of workers comp payments, as well as who must be covered and who can be exempt from coverage. Below are many of the specifics contained in the workers comp law in Colorado. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment also has a page with helpful information for employers.

Who's covered by Colorado workers compensation?

Can any employees opt out of Colorado workers compensation with a waiver?

Coverage cannot be waived, only rejected. Corporate officers and members of a limited liability company, who are at least 10% shareholders, may reject coverage. Coverage is elective for working general partners or sole proprietors. Coverage is required for construction workers unless specifically rejected.

Is self-insurance for workers comp allowed in Colorado?

Yes, for individual employers, groups of employers and political subdivisions. Political subdivisions in Colorado are typically the state or a city, county, special district, school district or public agency.

By self-insuring, a business assumes responsibility for paying their own workers comp claims. A self-insured company typically hires a claims service company to handle claims administration and other services.

Are there exclusions for:

Small employers? No.

Agricultural employers? Yes, exclusions apply if the employer does not pay persons engaged in casual agricultural activities more than $2,000 in wages for any calendar year.

Domestic employers? Yes, exclusions applies if the employer does not employ persons engaged in domestic work for more than 40 hours per week or on five days or more per week.

Independent contractors? Yes.

Casual employees? Yes.

Volunteers? No. Employees of eleemosynary, charitable, fraternal, religious, or social employers who are elected or appointed to serve in an advisory capacity and receive an annual salary or an amount not in excess of $750 and who are not otherwise subject to the Workers Compensation Act of Colorado are not covered.

Professional athletes? No.

Colorado workers comp medical benefits

Is there a Colorado workers comp fee schedule?


Fee schedules define payments for surgery, radiology, hospital services, chiropractic care, ambulance service, prescription drugs and other medical services for an injured worker.

Are there limits on medical treatment?

Yes, treatment must be reasonable and necessary; prior authorization is needed if treatment goes beyond the established medical treatment guidelines.

Who makes the initial choice of treating physician?

The employee, from a list of two physicians provided by the employer.

Disability payments for workers compensation insurance in Colorado

Workers compensation generally pays an employee a portion of their income when they can't work due to injuries resulting from a job-related task. State laws defines the limits on the payment amounts and length based upon temporary and permanent disability.

How are temporary total disability (TTD) payments calculated?

66 2/3% of the employee's pre-injury weekly wage.

Weekly minimum: None

Weekly maximum: $875.42

Maximum length of TDD benefits: For the duration of the temporary disability.

How are permanent total disability (PTD) payments calculated?

66 ⅔% of the employee's average weekly wage.

Weekly minimum: None

Weekly maximum: $875.42

Are there cost of living increases for PTD payments? No.

Maximum length of PTD benefits: Benefits are for the length of the disability and may be paid for life.

How are permanent partial disability (PPD) payments calculated?

Percentage of PPD x age factor x TTD rate x 400 weeks

Weekly minimum: None

Weekly maximum: $275.10 is the weekly rate for all scheduled injuries; $875.42 is the weekly maximum for calculating unscheduled injuries.

Fatality benefits under Colorado workers compensation law

Maximum burial benefit: $7,000

Dependency benefits, weekly minimum / maximum: $218.86/$875.42

When do children's dependency benefits end? At age 18; benefits can continue if child is disabled.

Other injuries covered by Colorado workers compensation

Mental stress with no physical injury? Yes. A claim of mental impairment must be proven by evidence supported by the testimony of a licensed physician or psychologist. A "mental impairment" means a recognized, permanent disability arising from an accidental injury arising out of and in the course of employment when the accidental injury involves no physical injury and consists of a psychologically traumatic event that is generally outside of a worker's usual experience and would evoke significant symptoms of distress in a worker in similar circumstances. A mental impairment shall not be considered to arise out of and in the course of employment if it results from a disciplinary action, work, evaluation, job transfer, layoff, demotion, promotion, termination, retirement, or similar action taken in good faith by the employer. The claimant will be limited to twelve weeks of medical impairment benefits (this limitation does not apply to any victim of crime of violence or the victim of physical injury or occupational disease that causes neurological brain damage).

Cumulative trauma (such as injuries caused by repeated exposure or repetitive motion)? Yes.

Occupational hearing loss? Yes.

Disfigurement? Yes.

Source: Workers Compensation Research Institute, May 2016 report