In some situations, employees in Colorado who quit their jobs after they get hurt at work may still qualify for some types of workers’ compensation benefits. For instance, if you quit your job, it may have no impact on your ability to receive medical benefits. However, it could affect your right to collect lost-wage benefits.
Before you quit your job after a workplace injury in Denver or elsewhere in Colorado, make sure to consult first with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer at The Sawaya Law Firm. We can take a look at your situation and help you to understand the potential impact on your workers’ compensation claim. Just call or reach us online today to learn more in a free consultation through any one of our five offices located in Denver, Greeley or Colorado Springs.
What Benefits Can I Collect Through Workers’ Compensation?
Under Colorado’s workers’ compensation laws, injured workers may qualify for three basic types of benefits:
- Medical benefits – Coverage of all medical expenses related to a work-related injury or illness, including everything from the costs of hospitalization and physical therapy to ongoing treatment and rehabilitation.
- Wage-loss benefits – These benefits go to injured employees on a temporary basis and, typically, equal two-thirds of an employee’s average weekly wage – up to a statutory maximum.
- Disability benefits – Compensation for a permanent disability or disfigurement resulting from an on-the-job injury.
The amount that a worker can collect in benefits, and how long the worker will receive those benefits, will depend on a number of factors. Those factors include:
- The severity of the worker’s injury
- His or her prognosis
- The injured party’s average weekly wage prior to the accident.
For instance, a worker may suffer a back injury at work. The doctor may tell the worker that he or she can return to work within a few weeks, but only in a limited capacity – and, as a result, for lesser pay. In this situation, the worker’s wage-loss benefits won’t be as high as they would be if the worker could not return to work at all.
However, in this situation, the worker’s ability to work should not have any effect on his or her medical benefits. Those benefits should continue until the worker’s physician states that he or she has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), which means that the worker will not continue to progress even with further treatment. At that point, the worker could be eligible for permanent disability payments.
Can I Be Fired After Suffering an On-the-Job Injury?
Colorado is an at-will employment state. Unless a contract is in place stating otherwise, employers are generally permitted to fire their employees for almost any reason and at any time. This doctrine also applies to employees who suffer workplace injuries, including those with active workers’ compensation claims.
However, unless the employee is terminated for cause, he or she might still be entitled to wage-loss benefits – but only if the employee is still under a work restriction. Additionally, Colorado law prohibits employers from firing employees for filing workers’ compensation claims. An employee’s termination in those circumstances would be retaliatory and unlawful.
Similarly, employees can also quit their jobs at any time – even after they suffer a work injury. However, quitting a job could have significant repercussions on the amount and the type of workers’ compensation benefits that the injured employee collects.
Will I Lose My Workers’ Compensation Benefits If I Quit My Job?
A person’s employment status has no impact on his or her medical needs. So, leaving a job should not affect an injured worker’s ability to collect workers’ compensation benefits related to the treatment of an injury. Still, by quitting a job, a person’s access to wage-loss benefits will most likely be discontinued. After all, these benefits are designed to help workers to return to the workforce.
If a worker is ruled permanently disabled and unable to work or must work at a lower pay grade than before his or her injury, an exception to this rule applies. In the former case, the injured worker would most likely be eligible to collect permanent disability benefits – either in the form of a lump sum payment or a structured payment plan. This is true even if the worker chose to leave his or her job. In the latter case, the worker could be eligible to continue receiving wage-loss benefits that compensate him or her for the pay cut.
What If I Quit My Job Before Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Technically, the validity of a workers’ comp claim depends not on when a person files the claim but, instead, on when the injury occurred. Still, those who quit their jobs before filing a workers’ compensation claim will have a much harder time collecting those benefits. The employer will undoubtedly be suspicious of claims made after an employee has already left the company.
Employees who have firm evidence of a workplace injury may still be able to collect medical benefits. So, they can receive treatment for their on-the-job injuries. However, they will almost never be allowed to collect payment for their lost wages. For this reason, injured employees should think very carefully about quitting their job before they file a workers’ compensation claim with their employer.
Get Help from an Experienced Colorado Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Workers who suffer on-the-job injuries in Colorado do not have to stay in the same job in order to continue collecting workers’ compensation benefits. Still, an injured worker could lose access to some of those benefits, including wage-loss benefits, if he or she decides to quit work.
Whether you should quit your own job following an injury ultimately depends on the specific circumstances of your case. So, if you were hurt at work and have questions about how to proceed with your claim, or if you are not sure whether you should leave your employment, contact one of the dedicated Colorado workers’ compensation lawyers at The Sawaya Law Firm for help as soon as possible.