How Long Do You Have to Report a Work Injury in Every State?
May 26, 2023 · 4 min read
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State workers’ comp laws require you to follow a certain timeline to report your injury in order to qualify for benefits. Each state sets a limit on how soon you should report your work and it could range anywhere from a few days to a few months. Your best bet is to tell your employer immediately, but we’ll go over each state’s time limits for notifying your workplace about your condition.
When should you report a work injury?
Report a work injury immediately when it happens. If you can’t report right away, like if you need emergency care, ask someone else to report it for you and then report it yourself as soon as possible.
Besides meeting your state’s time limit for reporting your injury, reporting early has two more benefits:
You’ll have the details of your accident fresh in your mind. This makes for easier reporting. A detailed report will help you later in the workers’ comp process if your employer or insurance disputes your claim.
The workers’ comp payment process could go faster. Before you can get benefits, you need to wait for your employer to report your injury to their insurer or the state. Then that party needs to process your claim. Getting your report in ASAP will help you get your first payments as soon as possible after the initial waiting period you need to go through.
How long do you have to report a work injury in every state?
The time you have to report your work injury varies based on your state.
Most states say to notify your employer of your injury “as soon as practicable.” That generally means as soon as possible, but it gives you time if you can’t report it to your employer immediately — like if you needed emergency care or didn’t confirm the injury is work-related until later.
The table below shows how long you have across the United States to let your employer know that you have a workplace injury or illness that could require workers’ comp.
What if you have an injury that’s not obvious at first?
If you have a condition that you can’t immediately identify, like an exposure-related illness or a repetitive motion injury, report it as soon as you’re aware that you have the condition and that it’s related to your work.
Having medical documentation — like a doctor’s diagnosis — will also help you prove to insurance that you have the condition and that it’s work-related.
State laws vary on when the time limit for reporting starts. For example, in Montana, the typical 30-day time limit doesn’t apply to occupational diseases. Looking at Oregon law, you can report later than the 90-day time limit if you can show you have a good reason, but you have to prove it in a hearing.
If you’re not sure exactly when your condition first began, make your best guess at the date and ask coworkers you trust for written testimony about your condition. If your employer, their insurer, or the state tries to debate when your illness started, a lawyer can help you give proof.
How to report an injury at work
Report your injury in writing to the highest-level person at your job who you can get in touch with. This chain could go up to as low as your direct supervisor or as high as your company’s owner.
Only some states, like New York, require a written report. But reporting your injury in writing will help you wherever you live. You’ll have documented evidence of your report with the exact information you provided. This will also help if months pass and you can’t remember all the small details of your accident, like the time it happened.
Put this information in your report:
Your name, address, and additional contact information like your phone number
When your injury happened, including the date and time
Where your injury happened — include the address if you have it
The basic details of how your injury happened
What your injury was and the signs or symptoms you experienced
States that require a written report for workers’ comp
It’s not always easy to give your employer a written report right away. In this case, you can let them know verbally as soon as possible and follow up with a written notice soon after. These states only recognize written reports:
If you’re having a difficult time filing your claim or if you run into issues, a workers’ comp lawyer is your best option for help.
When your employer, their insurer, or your state’s workers’ comp agency fights or denies your claim, they likely have legal teams on their side that know the laws around benefits better than you do. A workers’ comp lawyer evens out the situation.
At Atticus, we connect workers with lawyers who can help them get the benefits they need so they can move forward with life. Take our two-minute quiz to see if you could qualify for legal help, and we’ll get you in touch to learn more and connect you with a lawyer. (Getting matched with a lawyer is free, you don’t have to use our lawyer if you don’t want to, and you never pay unless you win benefits or get a settlement.)
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Frequently asked questions about workers’ comp
How does workers’ comp work?
The workers’ comp process starts when you report your work injury or illness to your employer. Then you have to file a claim within a certain amount of time so you can qualify for weekly payments and reimbursement of your medical bills while you recover.
Can I get workers’ comp if the injury was my fault?
Yes. You can qualify for workers’ comp no matter whose fault the injury or illness was, as long as it happened while you were doing your job. Our guide to qualifying accidents and injuries will help you see if you could get coverage.
Do all workers qualify for workers’ comp?
You're probably eligible for workers’ comp if your employer withholds taxes from your paychecks. Independent contractors don’t usually qualify, but states may offer coverage to certain contractors, volunteers, or seasonal workers. Check with your state workers’ comp board to see exactly who qualifies in your area.
Not everyone needs to work with a lawyer, but a workers’ comp lawyer can especially help if your claim is denied, if you get a settlement offer, or even if your claim just lasts for more than a few months. Here are some situations when a lawyer can help you.
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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