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When Does California Workers' Comp Start Paying Lost Wages?

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A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.
Victoria Muñoz
Lead Attorney
February 23, 2024  ·  4 min read
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If you’re injured on the job and need to miss work time while you recover, California workers’ compensation benefits will pay you for at least some of your lost wages. But those payments don’t begin immediately and could take weeks or months to arrive. Here’s when you can expect workers’ comp to start paying lost wages and what to do if the payments don’t arrive on time.


When does workers’ comp start paying lost wages?

In California, workers’ comp starts paying lost-wage benefits within 14 days from the date you reported your injury to your employer, as long as a doctor has confirmed your injury will require you to miss work. If you report the injury before a doctor documents that your injury will require you to miss work, then insurance can wait until 14 days after you share that doctor confirmation to send your first payment.

At the same time, the insurance company can delay your first payment because it has 90 days to “investigate” your claim before it decides whether to approve it or deny it. If your first payment isn’t going to arrive within the first two weeks, the insurance company is required to send you a letter within 14 days explaining why there’s a delay.

Benefit type

When payments start

Payment frequency

Temporary disability

Within 14 days of your employer documenting the injury

Every two weeks

Partial permanent disability

Within 14 days of temporary disability payments ending

Weekly

Total permanent disability

Within 14 days of temporary disability payments ending

Weekly

When temporary disability starts paying

Temporary disability starts paying within 14 days after either the date your employer learns of your injury or the date your doctor determines your injury will keep you out of work.

For most workers’ comp cases, temporary disability benefits are the first type of payment you receive. They are available for any workplace injury or illness that leaves you temporarily unable to do your job, meaning injuries that don’t immediately lead to a permanent disability.

When permanent disability starts paying

Permanent disability benefits start paying within 14 days of your last temporary disability payment, so you shouldn’t experience any lapse in benefits.

Keep in mind that not everyone will receive permanent benefits. These payments only take effect if you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) but haven’t recovered to your pre-injury condition. At that point, your temporary disability payments will end and your permanent disability will start. However, many people will still agree to a workers’ comp settlement at this point, which will also replace your permanent disability payments.

Maximize your California workers' comp payout.

When does workers’ comp start paying medical bills?

After a work injury, your employer is required to pay up to $10,000 of medical bills even if your claim hasn’t been approved yet. So even if your lost-wage benefits take weeks to start, your medical coverage should start immediately.

If your employer is refusing to cover medical expenses for a work injury, contact a workers’ comp attorney.


How often does workers’ comp pay?

California workers’ comp pays temporary benefits every two weeks. Permanent disability benefits pay weekly. However, if you agree to a settlement instead of permanent benefits, your payments could come every two weeks or you might get one lump-sum payment.

Learn more about when California workers’ comp offers a settlement.


How does workers’ comp make payments?

How you receive workers’ comp payments depends on the insurance company. Most insurance companies still send paper checks through the mail, but you may have the option to use direct deposit. Contact your claims administrator to see if direct deposit is available.


What to do if your workers’ comp payment is late

If your first workers’ compensation check isn’t going to be sent within 14 days, your claims administrator must mail you a letter explaining that your payment will be late.

Keep in mind that the check needs to be postmarked within the 14-day deadline, but postal service delays could mean the check arrives after 14 days. It’s also possible the insurance is still deciding whether to approve or deny your claim, and insurance has 90 days to do that investigation.

If you didn’t receive a payment or a letter, contact your claims administrator. And if you’re having a difficult time getting in contact or if they’re refusing to send your payments, talk to a workers’ comp lawyer. A lawyer will handle calls with the claims administrator and fight to get you the benefits you’re entitled to.

You’re also entitled to additional payments if insurance sends your checks late.


Penalties for late payments

In California, any insurance company that sends a late workers’ comp payment must also pay you an additional penalty of between 10% and 25%.

California law requires that overdue temporary and permanent disability payments automatically include an additional 10% payment.1

If your claims administrator had no reasonable excuse for the late payment, you’re entitled to a bonus payment of up to 25%, with a maximum possible payment of $10,000.2 The penalty also applies to other payments from the insurance, like medical care payments, mileage reimbursement, and any settlement payments. The exact amount you will receive is decided by a workers’ comp judge. We recommend talking to a workers’ comp lawyer at this point to help you get full benefits.

Make sure you keep all letters from your claims administrator — including the postmarked envelopes — to prove that your payments were late. We also recommend talking to a workers’ comp lawyer. Not only will a lawyer make sure insurance sends the full payments you deserve, but they’ll also help you manage medical coverage and negotiate a larger settlement with insurance.

Get help with your workers' comp claim today.

Atticus can help with your workers’ comp payments

Atticus is a California-based workers’ comp law firm that can help you fight for the payments and full benefits you’re entitled to. Our lawyers can talk to your claims administrator for you, represent your case in front of a judge if necessary, and negotiate a fair settlement. Your initial call is also free and if you decide to work with our lawyer, you won’t pay anything upfront. You only ever pay after our lawyer helps you win extra benefits or a settlement. To get started, fill out our 3-minute workers’ comp questionnaire. Then a member of our team will reach out to learn more about your situation, answer your questions, and connect you with a lawyer.


Frequently asked questions about workers’ comp payments

When does workers’ comp start paying?

In most cases, you should get your first California workers’ comp payment within two weeks of reporting your injury.

When do permanent disability benefits start paying?

State law requires the insurance company to make your first permanent disability payment within two weeks of your temporary benefits ending.

How often should I get my payments?

Temporary disability benefits should arrive every two weeks after you get your first payment. Permanent disability benefits may arrive weekly. When you get a settlement payment depends on the type of settlement you have.

What should I do if my payments are late?

California law requires insurance to pay you an additional penalty if they send a late payment. The penalty is worth between 10% and 25% of your check, depending on why it was late. If you’re struggling to get your payments on time, a workers’ comp attorney can help you talk to insurance.

When should I talk to a lawyer?

A workers’ comp lawyer can help any time you run into issues, like late payments. But a lawyer’s services extend beyond troubleshooting. For example, they can handle calls with your claims administrator, get your medical treatments approved, represent you in court, and negotiate a settlement. Learn more about when a lawyer can help your claim.


Related resources:

California Workers' Comp: Everything You Need to Know

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

Your Guide to California Workers’ Comp Settlements

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

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References

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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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