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Workers' compensation is paid regardless of employee fault

Even if an employee is injured while doing something that would normally be considered as careless or unsafe, a resulting workplace injury must be compensated. The workers' compensation system in Colorado and elsewhere takes fault out of the equation and requires benefits be paid to a worker suffering a workplace injury regardless of fault. That also means that, as between the employer and the employee, there can be no tort claims for injuries made by either party.

Furthermore, claims that a coworker also contributed to the workplace injury are not actionable and are waived. An exception to this no-lawsuit policy occurs when a third-party who is not associated with the employer and is not a coworker contributes to causing the injury. In that case the injured employee can sue the third-party for general tort damages including pain and suffering.

The classic example is the case of a defective product. If the worker gets his hand severed in an unsafe meat grinder, for example, he will collect the regular benefits payable under the workers' compensation laws for a workplace injury and disability. However, the employee is free to investigate and then file a tort claim against the manufacturer of the meat grinder on a defective product theory.

In a recent workplace accident in Texas, one worker is dead and one injured in a workplace accident at a wrecking company. The two were working under a truck that was apparently held up or propped up by a forklift. The truck fell off and dropped onto both workers. The man was killed and the woman was seriously injured. Although the workers may have been violating OSHA safety rules in their method of working on the truck, they are still entitled to collect under the no-fault workers' compensation system.

The same result would apply in Colorado. In the case of the decedent, his immediate family members are entitled to collect the statutory workers' compensation death benefits provided under Colorado law. The injured woman is entitled to collect medical benefits and statutory wage losses for the total term of her disability.

Source: newschannel10.com, Local company under investigation for workplace accident, No author, Jan. 7, 2014

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