When Can You File a Claim for Workers' Compensation?

Don't wait to file your workers' comp claim. Missing a filing deadline can stop your claim before it starts.

Updated by , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

You can file a claim for workers' compensation benefits as soon as you become injured on the job or develop an illness that is related to your work. In fact, delaying filing for workers' comp benefits after you've become sick or injured can be a distinct disadvantage and potentially allow a workers' compensation insurance carrier to deny benefits.

At the least, a significant amount of time between when the injury allegedly occurred and when it is reported can throw up red flags for an insurance carrier who suspects that a benefit claim is not wholly legitimate.

Workers' Comp for Carpal Tunnel and Other Continuous Trauma Injuries

Things get more complicated when you have an illness or injury that developed over time, such as mesothelioma or carpel tunnel syndrome (known as a continuous, or cumulative, trauma injury).

In these cases, the clock starts ticking toward your deadline when:

  • you took time off work because of the injury or see a doctor for the injury, and
  • you knew, or should have known, that the injury was caused by your work.

Reporting Your Workplace Injury

Initiating the workers' comp process involves notifying your an employer of your injury or work-related illness and, in most states, filing a formal workers' comp claim.

Employer notification of an injury or illness should be made promptly and should include pertinent details such as the date, time, and place of the injury, as well as how the injury occurred.

A worker may also wish to provide a list of witnesses if the injury was due to a specific workplace accident.

Filing a Claim for Workers' Comp Benefits: Steps to Follow

Each state has its own procedures and deadlines for filing for workers' comp benefits. Still, in most states the steps include the following:

  1. If your injury or illness is serious, get medical treatment right away. Your health should be your first priority, not your workers' comp claim. If you require immediate medical care, get it before doing anything else. Remember to mention that your injury occurred at work.
  2. Report your injury to your employer as soon as possible. Every state has its own deadline for reporting a workplace injury. Some allow only a few days, while others grant 30 days or more. Report your injury in writing, and ask for written confirmation that your employer has received your report.
  3. Attend medical appointments. Your employer or its insurer will probably require you to visit an approved doctor (or choose from a list of doctors) for treatment related to your workers' comp claim. Be sure to attend all such appointments.
  4. File your workers' comp claim. You can get a claim form from your employer or your state labor department's website. The claim form will ask for information about your injury, your work status, and your employer. Be mindful of your state's filing deadline.
  5. Hire a workers' comp attorney (if needed). If your claim is high-value, complicated, or has been denied, consider hiring a workers' comp attorney. Most workers' comp lawyers don't charge any fee up-front, and only collect 15-25% of your settlement or award. You're much more likely to receive benefits if you hire an attorney than if you try to go it alone.

Additional Questions Regarding Workers' Compensation Settlements and Claims

    1. How much do you get for workers' compensation?
    2. How much do you receive on a weekly basis for workers' compensation?
    3. Are there time limitations for workers' comp claims?
    4. Should you get a lawyer for workers' comp claims?
    5. How does a person begin the workers' comp process?

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