Coming Together on Workers’ Compensation Law
Bill brings package of procedural and substantive changes to Workers’ Compensation Act

by Julia Cardi

A bill introduced in Colorado’s legislature makes a package of changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act ranging from procedural clarifications to changes that overturn appellate court decisions.

The more significant clarifications to workers’ compensation law in House Bill 1154 include making guardian and conservator services a benefit employers have to cover if it is reasonable and necessary after a work-related injury. It also limits when benefits are apportioned based on a previous injury.

The apportionment section overrules two previous Court of Appeals decisions. Lawyers who represent employees say it clarifies a change to the Workers’ Compensation Act predating the cases, and the lawyers felt the Court of Appeals decisions didn’t correctly apply the law.

The section of the bill addressing coverage of guardian and conservator services overturns a third Court of Appeals case.

Bill sponsor Rep. Kevin Van Winkle, the House’s Republican assistant minority leader, said the bill’s intent to reduce litigation and make sure workers receive compensation benefits efficiently sold him on the legislation. He added with a bill as technically complicated as 1154, he looked for assurance that the bill’s provisions are well thought out.

“We want to ensure everyone that needs to be at the table was at the table and that they were able to have the true open discussions in order to try to find that middle ground on issues,” he said. “This isn’t something that professionally I’ve ever been fully engaged in, in a full-time job, so I need to trust the people who do this work on a daily basis.”

House Bill 1154 came out of a working group made up of Pinnacol Assurance, the Colorado Self Insurers Association and the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Education Association. The group meets each each year to discuss possible legislative proposals and gauge how they might fare in the current Capitol.

To read this and other complete articles featured in the Feb. 10, 2020 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.