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How Employment Status Affects Workers’ Comp Eligibility

Written by
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Victoria Muñoz
Lead Attorney
September 28, 2023  ·  3 min read
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Atticus offers free, high-quality workers' compensation advice to those injured at work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience, and help thousands of Americans get the benefits they deserve each year.

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Employees injured in the workplace may leave their jobs — either because they quit or get fired. Your employment status may affect your workers’ comp benefits. Read more about how leaving your job can impact your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits.

Can you file for workers’ comp after leaving your job?

Yes, you can file for workers’ comp after leaving your job. You can file for workers’ compensation with a former employer, but you still need to have notified your employer of the injury within the reporting limit. Generally speaking, if you notify your employer within the required time frame, you are entitled to full workers’ comp benefits, even if you’re no longer working for that employer. The timeline to file a workers’ compensation claim varies from state to state, but it’s always best to notify your employer of a workplace injury or work-related illness as soon as possible. 

Is my employer allowed to fire me after an injury at work?

Legally, an employer cannot fire you because you got injured or because you filed a workers’ comp claim. An exception is if your injury is the result of breaking clear rules or safety protocols at work, like consuming alcohol during work hours or operating machinery without permission.

Every state except Montana has at-will employment laws, meaning your employment can be terminated at any time for any reason. You can consult an employment lawyer if you believe you were wrongfully fired, but in many cases, at-will employment laws make it difficult to take any action against your former employer.

Can you collect workers’ comp after being fired? 

Yes, you can still collect workers’ comp benefits if your employer fires you, terminates your employment, or forces you to resign after a workplace injury.

If you already started getting benefits before you left, your payments and medical care should continue without any changes. The benefits are paid by your former employer’s insurance company, so it doesn’t matter if you stop working there.

If you haven’t started receiving benefits before leaving your job, it is essential to do the following:

  • Prove the injury happened at work before you quit. In addition to medical treatment records, witness statements and video footage of the workplace incident can strengthen your case when applying for workers’ comp benefits.
  • Notify your employer within the timeframe. The deadline to file a claim varies from state to state. Typically, you must file within 30 days of the workplace injury. If you fail to notify your employer within the timeframe, you might lose the right to receive workers' comp benefits. Filing promptly helps avoid delays in receiving benefits.

What happens if you get fired while already on workers’ comp? 

If you get fired when you’re already on workers’ comp, you should continue to receive weekly payments and medical benefits. After the insurance company approves your application and you begin receiving workers’ comp, your benefits are between you and the insurance company — not your employer. 

Any time your income increases while on workers’ comp — like if you move to a job that pays more or start working an additional job — it’s important to notify the insurance company. Income changes will affect how much you receive in weekly payments and potentially how much longer your payments last.

Will I lose workers’ comp if I quit my job? 

You should not lose your workers’ compensation benefits if you quit your job. Workers’ comp claims are dependent on your employment status at the time of the work injury. Generally, workers' comp medical benefits continue even if an employee quits. 

However, if you choose to resign from your job voluntarily, it could affect your eligibility for wage replacement benefits. For example, if your employer provides you with modified work options to help you return to work, and you choose to quit instead, your employer may argue that you no longer qualify for these benefits.

If you decide to quit your job, file your workers’ comp claim or start receiving benefits before you leave your job. Filing for workers’ comp and receiving benefits becomes more difficult over time since states have strict deadlines to file a claim. Working with an employer to file a claim could also become more difficult after you leave a job unless you leave that job on good terms. 

Where to get help with your workers’ comp claim

If you’re injured while at work, you deserve compensation, whether or not you stay in the same job. Still, depending on the circumstances, leaving your job can cause you to lose some of the benefits you’d otherwise be entitled to. This can become even more challenging the more time has passed since your accident. 

Whether you’re thinking about quitting or have recently been fired, working with a lawyer is one of the best ways to get help with your workers’ comp claim. An attorney can evaluate your injury and your employment status to determine the best path forward for your health and your workers’ comp benefits.  Take our quick workers’ comp benefits quiz to find out if a lawyer can offer the help you need. Our team will be in touch to learn more about your situation and connect you with a qualified lawyer in your area. There are no upfront costs and you get to choose if you’ll work with one of our lawyers.

Maximize your workers' comp benefits today

Related resources:

Your Complete Guide to Navigating Workers' Compensation

A hand draw portrait of a smiling, helpful lawyer.
By Victoria Muñoz

What Should You Do if You're Injured at Work?

A hand draw portrait of a smiling, helpful lawyer.
By Victoria Muñoz

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How long ago did you get an injury or illness at work?

A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.

Victoria Muñoz

Lead Attorney

Victoria Muñoz is an attorney on Atticus’s Workers' Compensation team. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of Stanford Law School, and has counseled hundreds of people seeking workers' compensation. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and spending time with her pup.
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