What Colorado Firefighters Should Know About Workers’ Compensation

When you’re working as a firefighter in Colorado, you put your life on the line every single day. In fact, being a firefighter is one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. The risks that come with this job are very real. There are currently about 2,200 firefighters employed throughout Colorado. These brave men and women work tirelessly each and every day to keep their communities safe from fires. Firefighters risk their lives to save others on a regular basis, but they don’t do it for the pay or benefits; they do it because it’s their passion and calling. When you sign up to become a firefighter in CO, you understand there will be risks involved as part of that job. However, what you may not know is that because of those risks, you will have additional protections under workers’ compensation laws if something goes wrong during the course of your duties. Here are some things you should know about workers’ compensation if you plan to become a firefighter in Colorado:

Getting Paid Through Workers’ Compensation

If you become injured on the job and receive a workers’ compensation workers’ compensation benefits at work. This is the insurance that your department has and it will pay you a certain amount every week. If you become permanently disabled or are injured on the job and are unable to return to your job as a firefighter, you will receive “permanent total disability benefits”. This is a steady stream of income that you will receive for the rest of your life. If you are not permanently disabled, but your injury causes you to miss work and receive “temporary disability benefits”, you will receive a set amount for a set amount of time. C.R.S. §8-42-105 provides that an employee who cannot work at all for more than three regular working days or shifts, receives temporary total disability benefits in the amount of 66 2/3 of the employee’s average weekly wage, not to exceed a maximum of 91% of the state average weekly wage.  . Your employers will not be out of pocket when you receive a workers’ compensation benefit. Workers’ compensation will pay your salary and your health care premiums. Your employer will not be paying out any extra money to you or paying for a long-term disability or life insurance.

Are volunteer firefighters eligible for Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

The Colorado Workers’ Compensation System enables injured workers to obtain compensation for work injuries without having to prove negligence against their employers. In exchange for this, the workers gave up the right to sue their employer at common law for pain and suffering, or damages. Workers’ Compensation is a system that provides medical benefits and compensation to individuals injured in the course and scope of their employment. For a claim to be compensable an injury or occupational disease must occur in the “course and scope” of an employee’s employment” and “arise out of the employment.” See C.R.S. §8-41-301(1)(b).

Under Colorado law, “members of volunteer police departments, volunteer police reserves, and volunteer police teams or groups in any county, city, town, or municipality, while actually performing duties as volunteer police officers, may be deemed employees at the option of the governing body of such county or municipality.” C.R.S. 8-40-202. Volunteer Police C.R.S. §8-40-202(1)(a)(I)(A) provides that posse, several types of volunteers, including volunteer firefighters, volunteer rescue, disaster and ambulance teams are employees.

Are Workers Compensation Benefits Available to Volunteer Firefighters?

You should report all injuries, even if it’s a minor sprained ankle or a back sprain. While you can’t control the hazards of your job, you can control what you report. Reporting an injury will open an investigation and help the state determine your injury rating. If you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits and are then able to go back to work and return to full duty, you must report that fact to your workers’ compensation insurance company. You may begin to receive fewer benefits. If you are receiving workers’ compensation and have been off work for a while, you should consider going back to work if you are physically able to do so.

When You Can Go Back to Work While Receiving Benefits

If you are receiving temporary disability benefits, there are some conditions that you must meet in order to go back to work. If you are receiving a combined disability and temporary disability benefit, you are prohibited from going back to work until the temporary disability benefit is exhausted. If you have a permanent injury, you have the option of returning to work, but you must be careful not to go back too early. Returning to work before you are fully healed can actually cause your condition to worsen and may result in you losing part or all of your pension.

Should You Go Back to Work While Receiving Benefits?

If you have a disabling injury, you may want to go back to work. This is completely understandable and something you can do, so long as you are careful not to re-injure yourself. If you have a long-term disability, you may want to go back to work. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOL) recommends that you wait six months before returning to work to make sure you are fully healed. If you have a short-term disability, you should wait until you receive all of your benefits before returning to work. If you have a short-term disability, you should wait until you receive all of your benefits before returning to work. You may want to remain on workers’ compensation benefits until you have saved enough to replace your income. Going back to work while receiving workers’ compensation benefits will reduce your benefits.

In Conclusion

Firefighters are some of the bravest and most dedicated individuals in the world. They put their lives on the line every single day to keep their communities safe. When you become a firefighter in Colorado, you will have additional protections and benefits under workers’ compensation laws. These are protections that are necessary because of the dangers and risks involved in this job.

Contact a Denver County Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

At Mandelaris Law we have great respect for firefighters who put their lives on the line to protect the environment and their communities, especially at a time when they are facing such dangerous threats. If you suffer an injury or illness while performing your duties, we want to help you achieve fair compensation. Contact our skilled Denver Workers’ Compensation attorney today at (303) 357-9757 to request a free consultation.