California Workers’ Compensation Benefits: How to Apply

Important: We updated this article in February 2023 so all information below is both current and correct. If you were injured or got sick on the job in the Golden State, here’s the information you need to get the California workers’ compensation benefits you’re entitled to.

Am I Eligible for California Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

Workers’ comp is handled at the state level unless you’re a federal employee. Get the details on workers’ comp for federal employees.

According to the state Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC), Golden State employers with one or more employees must provide workers’ comp coverage. Learn more about how to qualify for workers’ comp benefits.

How Do I File a California Workers’ Compensation Claim?

If your workplace injury or illness requires emergency or urgent care, seek treatment immediately. Pro Tip: Tell the doctor your injury or illness is work-related and keep your receipts and bills.

  1. Report your injury or illness to your supervisor immediately. You must notify your employer within 30 days to qualify. Pro Tip: If you fail to report, then you cannot receive workers’ compensation. In most cases, your employer chooses which doctor you’ll see.
  2. Get Form DWC1 from your employer to start your claim. State law requires your employer to give you this form within 24 hours of your notification. Pro Tip: You have one year from your injury date to qualify for California workers’ compensation benefits.
  3. Wait for a decision. A claims adjuster for your employer’s insurer must either approve or deny your claim within 90 days. Approved claims cover up to $10,000 in medical bills, plus lost wages after missing three days of work. If you qualify for lost wage payments, then expect the first check within 14 days. You can also qualify for temporary lost wage benefits after overnight hospitalization. Pro Tip: If you don’t get a denial letter within 90 days, then the state automatically approves your claim.
  4. Take action if your claim’s denied. Contact a DWC Information & Assistance officer at 800-736-7401 to help you dispute it. Pro Tip: You can also get a qualified workers’ compensation attorney to handle your appeal on contingency.

For more information on the California workers’ compensation process, download this DWC Factsheet.

What Else Should I Know About California Workers’ Compensation?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics analyzes workers’ comp data on most U.S. states and territories. The total number of recordable cases in the California Republic rose slightly from 2017 (466,600) to 2020 (483,300) before dropping in 2021 (450,000). The number of service industry cases remained essentially unchanged during the period, hovering in the 273,000 range except for a spike to 291,000 in 2019. The number of employees who missed work, transferred or received restrictions rose steadily during this period from 267,300 in 2017 to 299,700 in 2021.  

Get more details on what workers’ compensation benefits cover.

When you’re dealing with a work-related illness or injury, navigating the California workers’ compensation system can make the pain of a workplace illness or injury even worse. You may want to hire an experienced attorney to help you get maximum benefits faster. Your lawyer can negotiate with insurers, gather medical evidence to support your claim, and represent you at hearings.

Pro Tip: Workers’ comp attorneys don’t get paid unless you win benefits. You pay a reasonable, one-time fee only if your case is successful.

Want free expert claim help while you’re at home? Click the button below to sign up for a free phone call during normal weekday business hours:

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Margot Lester is the CEO ofThe Word Factory,a B2B & B2C content marketing agency that provides services for Fortune 100 brands, healthtech companies and SaaS developers. An award-winning business and brand journalist, she writes for daily and weekly newspapers and business journals, national magazines, in-flight publications and leading websites. Margot is also an in-demand writing coach and organizational communications trainer,helping individuals and teams write more effectively. Twitter/