Pinnacol is always looking for ways to make Colorado’s workers’ compensation system work more smoothly and efficiently for Colorado businesses and their employees. In the legislative session that just ended, we were able to do just that by helping pass a law that will minimize disputes and speed litigation in workers’ compensation cases.
The bill, SB 16-217, does three things:
- It clarifies that when an injured worker’s wage replacement payment is reduced because the injury resulted from a safety rule violation, the employer or insurer must explain that violation. The absence of such a common sense requirement in the current system leads to additional litigation and time to settle the claim, which doesn’t serve either the employer or the injured worker’s interests.
- Related to this provision, the bill also allows an expedited hearing on whether benefits may be reduced in such safety rule violation cases, and extends the time frame for that expedited hearing from 40 to 60 days. At first glance, that may seem contradictory — what’s so “expedited” about extending the time period for holding a hearing? But, in practice, the current 40-day window for expedited hearings (currently in place for other disputes) seldom gives enough time for both sides to prepare their cases. As a result, hearings are continued and issues ultimately take longer than 40 days to resolve. Both defense and injured workers’ attorneys believe that a 60-day window is more reflective of the actual time needed to prepare for hearings on safety rule violations, and this change will make things more efficient.
- It requires that an injured worker’s request to change his or her authorized treating physician be documented on a form (to be developed by the Division of Workers’ Compensation). The bill also clarifies the circumstances that signal the end of an injured worker’s relationship with one ATP and the beginning of the treating relationship with another. This is a really important change because it will help reduce conflicting opinions from treating physicians, eliminate confusion, and reduce disputes and litigation.
This new law takes effect July 1. We’re pleased that these changes to reduce friction in the system were agreed on by Pinnacol, the Colorado Self-Insurers Association and the Workers’ Compensation Education Association (injured workers’ attorneys).