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California workers' compensation laws are structured to benefit the employee more than the employer. See the laws and statistics specific to your state.

California Workers’ Compensation Benefits: How to Apply

State law defines how to file your claim for workers’ compensation benefits. (Federal or state employee hurt on the job? Then here’s how to file a federal workers’ compensation claim.) 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, then here’s how to apply for California workers’ compensation:

  1. Tell your supervisor immediately about your workplace injury or illness. State law requires notifying your employer within 30 days. If you fail to do this, you cannot receive workers’ compensation.
  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 first.
  3. Your employer should give you Form DWC1 to start your claim. State law requires your employer to give you this form within 24 hours after your notification. You have one year from your injury date to qualify for workers’ comp benefits.
  4. A claims adjuster for your employer’s insurer must approve or deny your claim within 90 days. If you don’t get a denial letter before that, the state automatically approves you.
  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. You can also qualify for temporary lost wage benefits after overnight hospitalization.
  6. If your claim’s denied, contact a DWC Information & Assistance (I&A) officer to help you dispute it. Simply call 1-800-736-7401. You can also get a qualified 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, 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 workers’ compensation (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.

Related: Colorado Workers’ Compensation Benefits: How to Apply

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 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 if your case is easy or difficult to prove. You should know, however, that people with preexisting health issues usually don’t get workers’ comp benefits.

We can match you with a qualified workers’ comp attorney today near you. No attorneys will take your case unless they think you’re owed benefits. This means you won’t pay any workers’ compensation lawyer 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 benefits evaluation online now!

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Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity,, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.