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How to File for Workers' Comp in California in 2024

Written by
A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.
Victoria Muñoz
Lead Attorney
February 23, 2024  ·  3 min read
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When you get hurt or sick at work, you can qualify for California workers’ compensation, a program that pays for medical bills and lost wages while you recover. The first step to getting benefits is to notify your employer of the injury and file a workers’ comp claim using Form DWC 1. In this guide, you’ll learn how to file for workers’ compensation in California so you can start getting the support you need.


3 steps to file for California workers’ comp

The workers’ comp filing process is relatively simple for California employees. There is only one form and you can give it to your employer after you fill it out. You don’t need to worry about filing it with insurance yourself.

Follow this process to file your workers’ compensation claim:

  1. Get emergency care if necessary. Even before you file a claim, your employer is required to pay up to $10,000 of medical care after a work injury.

  2. Notify your employer within 30 days. This step is vital. If you don’t report the injury within this deadline, you can’t get workers’ comp benefits.

  3. Complete Form DWC 1. Your employer should give you Form DWC 1 after you report your injury and you should return it once you fill out the employee portion.

Get help with your workers' comp claim today.

Step 1. Get emergency care if necessary

After a workplace injury, you have a right to get the medical care you need. Even if you haven't filed a claim yet, your employer’s workers’ comp insurance is required to pay up to $10,000 of medical bills related to your injury.1

Ideally, California state recommends telling your employer about the injury and following their directions for where to get treatment. Your workplace may also have posted a list of doctors and medical providers who are within their service network. But if you need to go to the emergency room before telling your employer, that’s still covered.

When you’re at the doctor’s office or ER, make sure to tell the staff that you have a work-related injury.


Step 2. Notify your employer within 30 days

Before you can officially file a claim, you must let your employer know about your injury, in writing, within 30 days of getting sick or hurt. If you miss this reporting deadline, you will not be able to get workers’ comp benefits no matter how serious your injury is.2

California law doesn’t require any specific information in that notice except for your signature. However, it’s best to include as much detail as you can about how and where your injury happened, as well as any symptoms, side effects, or conditions you’re experiencing because of the injury.

Writing out the details when the incident is fresh in your mind will make it easier later to file a claim. You can also use this document later in an appeal if your employer or their insurance denies your claim, so keep a copy for your records.

How to report a workplace injury

Here are some helpful details to include in your notice:

  • The date that you’re giving your notice to your employer

  • The address or location where you got sick or hurt

  • The date and time when you got sick or injured

  • Details on your injury and symptoms you experience because of it

  • The exact events that led to your illness or injury

  • Names of anyone who witnessed your injury or exposure to illness

  • Details about any work equipment, vehicles, or supplies involved

Read more about how to report a workers’ comp injury to your employer.


Step 3. Complete Form DWC 1

After you let your employer know about your condition, you can officially start the filing process by completing Form DWC 1. Your employer should give you a copy of the form within one day after you report your injury, but you can also download a copy online from the California Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC). After you fill out the employee portion of the form, you should return it to your employer so they can fill out their portion of the form.

You can get line-by-line advice on filling out the form in our complete guide to Form DWC 1.


What happens after you file for workers’ comp?

After you and your employer complete Form DWC 1, your employer is required to send it to their insurance and give you a copy of the completed form. Once the insurance company receives the form, they’ll have 14 days to mail you a letter accepting or denying your claim.

If the insurance accepts your claim, it will continue covering medical expenses related to your injury. You’ll also qualify for payments every two weeks to cover lost wages if you need to miss work for at least three days.

Our full guide to California workers’ comp explains all the benefits you can receive and how every step of the process works.


How long do you have to file a workers’ compensation claim?

California gives you 30 days to report a workplace injury or illness to your employer and one year from the date of your injury to file a workers’ comp claim.

If you miss the deadline to report your injury, you won’t be able to file a claim. Similarly, if you miss the filing deadline, you won’t be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits for your injury.


Where to get help filing a claim

If you have questions about the filing process, you can visit the California Division of Workers’ Compensation’s official website visit or one of its Information and Assistance Unit offices to get help in person.

Atticus can also offer you personalized advice by connecting you with a workers’ compensation lawyer. Working with a lawyer is not the same as suing your employer and there are no upfront costs — your initial consultation with us is free and you only ever have to pay our lawyers if (and after) they get you a settlement or extra benefits.

To get help today, fill out this quick workers’ comp questionnaire and a member of our team will reach out to learn more about your situation and answer your questions.

Atticus can simplify the workers' comp process for you.

Frequently asked questions about filing for workers’ comp

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

Within one day of reporting your injury to your employer, they will give you Form DWC 1 to fill out. Return it to your employer and they will file a claim for you.

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

You need to report your injury to your employer within 30 days. As long as you meet that deadline, you have one year to file a workers’ comp claim.

Will I get fired if I file a workers’ comp claim?

No, your employer cannot legally fire you because you tell them you want to file a workers’ comp claim. If they do, contact a California employment attorney.

When does workers' comp start paying?

In most cases, you’ll receive your first workers’ comp payment within 14 days of notifying your employer of your injury. In some situations, insurance has 14 days from when your doctor says your injury prevents you from working. Your payments arrive every two weeks after that.

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 2024.

Do I need a workers’ comp lawyer?

You don’t need a lawyer to get benefits but they can help throughout the process, from filing paperwork to planning medical care to negotiating a settlement with insurance. Your first consultation is also free, so you can talk to a lawyer first and then decide if you want to work with them.

See what you qualify for

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

References

  1. 1.
    Workers' Compensation,” California Department of Human Resources, last modified December 14, 2016, accessed February 23, 2024, https://www.calhr.ca.gov/state-hr-professionals/Pages/benefits-administration-manual-workers'-compensation.aspx.
  2. 2.
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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