When you get an injury at work that could keep you off the job for days or weeks, it’s natural to wonder when workers’ comp would start contributing to your lost wages. That waiting period factors into whether you can make a good case and — most importantly — your ability to get by while you recover.
As you take time off from work due to your injury, you will have to wait until you miss a certain number of days before you can get benefits, but that period varies by state. We’ll teach you about the waiting period for workers’ comp payments and how it works in your state.
Yes, you need to be out of work for a certain number of days to get workers’ comp benefits. Each state has a waiting period between three to seven days set by law.
If you live in a state with a three-day waiting period, for example, your workers’ comp payments will cover the time lost from the fourth day you missed work onwards.
Once this initial waiting period is over, you will also need to wait for your first payment to come through. Many states have a time limit on when your employer’s workers’ comp insurance should pay you.
Some states require you to finish the waiting period to get workers’ comp payouts for medical care, while others have “medical-only” claims. For example, Ohio lets workers who haven’t finished their seven-day waiting period get medical benefits.
No, you should still file for workers’ comp as soon as possible to get the highest payout possible. Filing as early as you can provides these benefits to your case:
Read our guide to filing for workers’ compensation to get more advice on filing quickly and properly.
After you start to miss weeks of work due to your injury, you can get retroactive pay for the work time you lost during your waiting period. Like the initial waiting period, the time that you have to miss work to get retroactive pay depends on your state.
For example, Oregon has a waiting period of three days before you get benefits to cover the time you lose from work. You can get coverage for those first three days once you miss work for 14 consecutive days.
You can categorize each state by its waiting period — seven, five, four, or three days. Most states count each waiting period in consecutive calendar days. But, some count work days only or don’t require the days to be consecutive. We’ll note these exceptions in each table.
*For Nevada, the waiting period is 5 consecutive days or 5 cumulative days within a 20-day period.
Only one state has a four-day waiting period — Montana. Instead of counting calendar days, this state requires you to miss 32 hours or four days’ worth of wages to receive benefits.
*In Colorado, the wait time is three work shifts, rather than three days
**In Illinois, the wait is specifically three working days
***In Vermont, the wait is 3 days unless the employee receives full wages on the day of the accident. It’s four days if received full wages on the day of the accident.
Here’s the waiting period for each state in alphabetical order:
3 shifts of work
District of Columbia
3 working days
32 hours or 4 days of lost wages
5 consecutive days or 5 cumulative days within a 20-day period
3 days unless the employee receives full wages on the day of the accident, four days if received full wages on the day of the accident
As you can see from the information you learned today, every state’s workers’ comp program has various time limits to navigate as you file. An experienced workers’ comp lawyer will help you understand these periods and get your benefits as soon as possible. Plus, workers who hire a lawyer get five times higher workers’ comp payouts.
Take our five-minute quiz to see if you qualify for workers’ comp and get matched with a vetted lawyer.
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