California Workers’ Compensation Benefits: How to Apply

California Workers' Compensation article image

State law defines how to file your claim for California workers’ compensation benefits. (If you’re a federal or state employee who gets hurt or sick at work, click here.) Anyone with a workplace injury or occupational illness can apply for California workers’ compensation benefits using the steps listed below. Then, see how the California workers’ compensation program changed from 2013-2017.



How to File Your California Workers’ Compensation Claim

According to the California Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC), employers with one or more employees must provide workers’ comp coverage. If you have an on-the-job illness or injury, follow these steps to apply for California workers’ compensation benefits:

  1. Tell your supervisor immediately about your workplace injury or illness. State law requires you to notify your employer that you’re sick or hurt within 30 days. If you fail to do this, you legally cannot receive any California workers’ compensation benefits.
  2. Seek medical treatment and tell the doctor your injury or illness is work-related. In most cases, your employer chooses which doctor you’ll see. If you need emergency care, get that done first before you notify your employer.
  3. Your employer should give you Form DWC1 to complete, which starts your workers’ compensation claim. State law requires your employer to give you this form within 24 hours after hearing about your workplace accident. Otherwise, you can download the form we’ve linked here, fill it out and return it to your supervisor. You have one year from your injury date to file this claim form to qualify for California workers’ compensation benefits.
  4. A claims adjuster for your employer’s insurance provider must approve or deny your benefits request within 90 days. If you don’t get a letter saying your claim’s denied before that, then the state automatically approves it.
  5. 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, expect the first check within 14 days after first notifying your employer. You can also qualify for temporary lost wage benefits if you’re hospitalized overnight for your injury or illness.
  6. If your claim’s denied, contact a DWC Information & Assistance (I&A) officer to help you dispute it. To get started, call 1-800-736-7401. You can also get a qualified California workers’ compensation attorney to handle your appeal on contingency.

Every California workers’ compensation claim is different, so your own process may vary. For more information about California workers’ compensation, read this downloadable DWC Factsheet in PDF format.

California Workers’ Compensation Statistics, 2013-2017

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes an annual report with workers’ compensation program data for most U.S. states. It includes total filed claims, which people missed work or changed positions, and job sector-specific data. Learn how the California workers’ compensation program changed between 2013 and 2017 below:

The California workers’ compensation program appears remarkably stable during this five-year period. Each year, about 6 in 10 employees with workplace injuries qualified for California workers’ compensation benefits (57%-58%). Service-industry workers account for most on-the-job injuries each year, filing between 58% and 60% of workers’ comp claims. That category also saw the only real shift in claims filed during this period, falling 4.9% from 2013 to 2014.

You May Qualify for Legal Assistance

The California workers’ compensation process seems clear — unless your claim’s denied. Since the insurer has 90 days to decide, we strongly recommend talking to an experienced lawyer. An attorney can advise you on whether your claim should qualify for workers’ compensation benefits free of charge. Simply ask for a free consultation, then explain exactly how you got hurt or sick at work. The attorney should know whether your case is easy or difficult to prove. You should know, however, that people with preexisting health issues often get denied California workers’ compensation benefits.

We can match you with a qualified workers’ comp attorney today in your area. No attorneys will take your case unless they think you’re owed benefits. This means you won’t pay any legal fees, ever, unless your case wins. And if that attorney does help you win, then you’ll only pay a small, one-time fee.

Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free California workers’ compensation benefits evaluation online now!

Get Your Free Benefits Evaluation