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How Long Can You Be on Workers' Comp in California?

Written by
A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.
Victoria Muñoz
Lead Attorney
September 30, 2022  ·  4 min read
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Getting injured on the job is a major stressor. Between lost wages, medical bills, and personal recovery, it can be very overwhelming. Rest assured there is a safety net — California’s workers’ compensation program pays disability benefits if you can’t work because you were injured on the job.


How long you can be on workers’ comp in California

For most people, California workers’ comp benefits last up to 104 weeks (two years) from the date of your injury. With severe injuries, like serious burns or chronic lung disease, benefits may last up to 240 weeks (just over four and a half years). Your payments can also spread across up to five years if you don’t need to take them all in consecutive weeks.

These benefits are called temporary disability benefits and how long your benefits last depends on how long your doctor thinks you’ll need to recover. If you’ll never fully recover or if your temporary benefits run out, it’s possible to receive permanent disability benefits for decades or even the rest of your life.

If you’re on workers' comp and expect to be out of work for the next year or longer, also consider applying for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI).

Call us to get help with your workers' comp claim today.

Types of workers’ comp in California

California offers two kinds of workers’ compensation benefits. Most people seeking workers’ comp in California will receive temporary disability benefits. There are also permanent disability benefits if you need more time to recover or don’t recover fully from your injury.

Temporary vs. permanent workers’ comp benefits

Temporary benefits start after you file your workers’ comp claim. You’ll receive payments every two weeks and all necessary medical care will be covered by your employer’s insurance.

If you don’t fully recover before temporary benefits expire, you can qualify for permanent disability benefits. There are two kinds of permanent benefits: partial permanent and total permanent.

Partial permanent disability benefits will extend your workers’ comp payments and medical care for years to give you time to properly recover. If you’ll never be able to work again after your injury, the state offers total permanent disability benefits, which provide income for the rest of your life.


How to get workers’ comp

The first step to getting workers’ comp is notifying your employer of your injury. Do this as soon as possible. Until you tell your boss, manager, or supervisor, you can’t receive workers’ comp.

Next, your employer has one work day to give or mail you a copy of a Workers’ Compensation Claim Form (DWC 1). Complete the employee section of the form and return it to your employer. They’ll complete their part of the form, sign it, and then give you a copy of it within one day.

Once this form has been filled out by you and your employer, you’ve successfully filed a workers’ compensation claim. But filing a claim doesn’t guarantee you benefits. Your employer’s claims administrator, who usually works for an insurance company, will decide whether to accept or deny your claim.

For more help navigating the workers’ comp process, read our full guide to workers’ comp in California.


How much workers’ comp pays

Workers’ compensation in California usually pays two thirds of your job’s average weekly income before your injury. Your exact pay rate depends on factors like your salary and any income you have from other jobs. There are also minimum and maximum payment rates. Workers’ comp will also pay for your medical treatment and give you access to job training if you’re on permanent disability.

Learn more in our guide to workers’ compensation rates in California.


Atticus can help with your workers’ comp claim

Atticus is here to help you navigate the complex system of workers’ comp in California. We can offer legal guidance at no cost and if needed, we’ll connect you to a top lawyer for your case. Get started with our 2-minute survey and our team will reach out for next steps.


Frequently asked questions: workers’ comp in California

How do I file a workers’ comp claim in California?

To file for workers’ comp in California, you need to give your employer written notice of your injury within 30 days. They should give you Form DWC 1 (Workers’ Compensation Claim Form) and you have one year to fill it out. Learn more in our full guide to California workers’ comp.

How much does workers’ comp pay in California?

California workers’ comp pays up to two-thirds of your pre-injury wages, but there is a maximum payment of $242.86 per week and $1,619.15 per week in 2023. Read more about how much workers’ comp pays in each state.

When does workers' comp start paying in California?

There is a three-day waiting period before you’re eligible to receive workers’ comp medical coverage in California, and your weekly payments start after your application (Form DWC 1) is approved.

How long can I be on workers’ comp pay in California?

You can generally be on California workers’ comp for up to 104 weeks, but your payments will end sooner if you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). Here’s more on how long benefits last.

Can I work on workers' comp in California?

You can do light-duty or modified-duty work while on workers’ comp and as long as you stay within your treating physician’s instructions, there’s no strict limit on how many hours you can work. Learn more about working while on California workers’ comp.

Where do I find a California workers' comp settlement chart?

Start with our guide to 2023 pay rates for California workers’ comp. It covers how much to expect from weekly payments as well as mileage reimbursement and death benefits.

Maximize your California workers' comp payout.

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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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