For most people, worker’s compensation is pretty straightforward. You can be pretty sure that Colorado’s worker’s compensation laws will apply if you are injured on the job in Denver, Grand Junction, or Colorado Springs. But, as a Colorado resident, what are you supposed to do if you are injured on the job and outside of the state?
Jurisdictions are generally fairly clear cut and simple to understand. Once you cross state lines, however, things get a little more complicated. And in today’s day and age, it is not uncommon for firms to do business in several different states. Some Colorado residents even live in border towns, like Fort Collins or Durango, to commute to their out-of-state jobs.
At Injury Victim Law, we know that workers’ compensation is a serious issue that demands immediate answers. When it comes to your livelihood and your physical health, it is important to act as expediently as possible. In this blog post, we aim to answer some basic questions you may have as a Colorado resident about workers’ compensation across state lines.
Luckily, we have come a long way since Colorado’s workers’ compensation system was first established. For the first few decades after the system was established, no clear statutes existed to answer the question of what to do with any out-of-state work accidents. In fact, appellate court cases simply determined that “the law of the place of contract governed” would be the deciding factor in which jurisdiction such a case would apply.
For more information, we can turn to the case of Industrial Commission of Colorado v. Aetna Life Insurance, Co. Here is some more context for what spurred the case: a Colorado resident was hired by a Colorado-based construction firm to supervise various construction projects across the mountain west. One day, while traveling from Idaho to Wyoming, the employee was killed in a tragic automobile accident.
Hence, the case was born. How should the company handle the untimely death of their employee while he was doing inter-state work? Which jurisdiction’s laws would apply? Would they adhere to Colorado’s rules and regulations, since he was a Colorado employee hired by a Colorado-based company? Or would they do better to adhere to the workers’ compensation laws of the state he was in when he passed away? All these questions and more needed to be answered.
In the end, the court decided to award the worker’s heirs with full benefits. Because being out of state was “an essential part of his employment,” the employment contract was initiated in Colorado, and the employer was based in Colorado, they chose to have the company adhere to Colorado’s workers’ compensation laws.
So, you may be thinking, any Colorado resident that is employed by a Colorado-based company should expect to be compensated via Colorado’s workers’ compensation laws. However, it is not always that simple. In fact, Colorado’s workers’ compensation laws may not even automatically apply just because an accident has occurred in Colorado.
Sound confusing? Allow us to break this down even further by turning to the case of Platt v. Reynolds. The verdict for this case: an injured worker was not established to the benefits provided under Colorado’s workers’ compensation laws because a “substantial portion” of his employment took place out of state.
While the employment contract was established in Colorado, the injured employee had otherwise no ties to the state. Hence, he did not receive all the benefits he might have as a Colorado resident.
The standards regarding jurisdiction were made even clearer in 1957 with the Denver Truck Exchange v. Perryman case. The verdict of this case established certain criteria that injured workers had to meet in order to be covered under Colorado’s workers’ compensation laws. The criteria are: (1) the employee’s employment contract was created in Colorado, (2) the employee worked in Colorado under a contract created in another state, or (3) the employee had substantial employment in Colorado.
Whether or not said employee is a resident of Colorado, they are entitled to be covered under Colorado’s workers’ compensation laws as long as they meet at least two of the above criteria. So, if a worker has no link to Colorado except for the fact that they are working in the state when their injury occurs, then they are not entitled to collect Colorado benefits. However, this may be different if they are determined to have had substantial employment in the state. Though other precedents exist, the “two out of three” criterion is a good general rule of thumb that you can count on.
Unfortunately, many companies are either genuinely unaware or willfully ignorant of how to deal with workers’ compensation issues when it comes to inter-state business. Because of this, it is important for workers who frequently work across state lines to empower themselves. You can do so by educating yourself on your rights or talking to a seasoned workers’ compensation lawyer about all your options.
If you are a Colorado resident or an out-of-state employee conducting business in the State of Colorado and you get injured on the job, you may be entitled to seek out legal help and collect compensation for your damages. We at Injury Victim Law can help with any of your workplace accident related problems.
Do not allow yourself to get taken advantage of. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced Colorado workplace accident attorneys. Not located in Colorado? Not to worry. Though we are a Colorado-based firm, our team of experts and investigators is ready and available to assist victims all across the country.
Personal injury is always distressing. It can be especially scarring when it happens on the job. We know that you have worked hard for everything you have. If you are dealing with a workers’ compensation-related issue, more stress is the last thing you need. We have helped countless clients resolve their cases. We can help you, too.