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When Does Workers' Comp Start Paying? How Long You'll Wait By State

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A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.
Victoria Muñoz
Lead Attorney
February 28, 2023  ·  4 min read
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When you get an injury at work that could keep you off the job for days or weeks, it’s natural to wonder when workers’ comp would start contributing to your lost wages. That waiting period factors into whether you can make a good case and — most importantly — your ability to get by while you recover.

As you take time off from work due to your injury, you will have to wait until you miss a certain number of days before you can get benefits, but that period varies by state. We’ll teach you about the waiting period for workers’ comp payments and how it works in your state.

Is there a waiting period before I can get workers’ comp?

Yes, you need to be out of work for a certain number of days to get workers’ comp benefits. Each state has a waiting period between three to seven days set by law.

If you live in a state with a three-day waiting period, for example, your workers’ comp payments will cover the time lost from the fourth day you missed work onwards.

Once this initial waiting period is over, you will also need to wait for your first payment to come through. Many states have a time limit on when your employer’s workers’ comp insurance should pay you.

Will I need to wait to get medical bill coverage, too?

Some states require you to finish the waiting period to get workers’ comp payouts for medical care, while others have “medical-only” claims. For example, Ohio lets workers who haven’t finished their seven-day waiting period get medical benefits.

Does this mean I should wait to file a workers’ comp claim?

No, you should still file for workers’ comp as soon as possible to get the highest payout possible. Filing as early as you can provides these benefits to your case:

  • Your employer and workers’ comp office will have more time to file your claim, helping you get your first payment as soon as possible.
  • You’ll have the details of your injury fresh in your mind as you report them to your employer and lawyer.
  • If your state puts a time limit on how soon you should file for workers’ comp, you’ll have a better chance of staying within that limit.

Read our guide to filing for workers’ compensation to get more advice on filing quickly and properly.

Can I get coverage for the time lost during my waiting period?

After you start to miss weeks of work due to your injury, you can get retroactive pay for the work time you lost during your waiting period. Like the initial waiting period, the time that you have to miss work to get retroactive pay depends on your state.

For example, Oregon has a waiting period of three days before you get benefits to cover the time you lose from work. You can get coverage for those first three days once you miss work for 14 consecutive days.

How long is the workers’ comp period in my state?

You can categorize each state by its waiting period — seven, five, four, or three days. Most states count each waiting period in consecutive calendar days. But, some count work days only or don’t require the days to be consecutive. We’ll note these exceptions in each table.

States with a seven-day waiting period

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Puerto Rico
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia

States with a five-day waiting period

  • Idaho
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada*
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota

*For Nevada, the waiting period is 5 consecutive days or 5 cumulative days within a 20-day period.

States with a four-day waiting period

Only one state has a four-day waiting period — Montana. Instead of counting calendar days, this state requires you to miss 32 hours or four days’ worth of wages to receive benefits.

States with a three-day waiting period

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado*
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois**
  • Iowa
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
  • Vermont***

*In Colorado, the wait time is three work shifts, rather than three days

**In Illinois, the wait is specifically three working days

***In Vermont, the wait is 3 days unless the employee receives full wages on the day of the accident. It’s four days if received full wages on the day of the accident.

Workers’ comp waiting periods by state

Here’s the waiting period for each state in alphabetical order:


Waiting period to receive workers' comp


3 days


3 days


7 days


7 days


3 days


3 shifts of work


3 days


3 days

District of Columbia

3 days


7 days


7 days


3 days


5 days


3 working days


7 days


3 days


7 days


7 days


7 days


7 days


3 days


5 days


7 days


3 days


5 days


3 days


32 hours or 4 days of lost wages


7 days


5 consecutive days or 5 cumulative days within a 20-day period

New Hampshire

3 days

New Jersey

7 days

New Mexico

5 days

New York

7 days

North Carolina

7 days

North Dakota

5 days


7 days


7 days


3 days


7 days

Puerto Rico

7 days

Rhode Island

3 days

South Carolina

7 days

South Dakota

7 days


7 days


7 days


3 days


3 days unless the employee receives full wages on the day of the accident, four days if received full wages on the day of the accident


7 days


3 days

West Virginia

3 days


3 days


3 days

How to get help with your workers’ comp claim

As you can see from the information you learned today, every state’s workers’ comp program has various time limits to navigate as you file. An experienced workers’ comp lawyer will help you understand these periods and get your benefits as soon as possible. Plus, workers who hire a lawyer get five times higher workers’ comp payouts.

Take our five-minute quiz to see if you qualify for workers’ comp and get matched with a vetted lawyer.

Maximize your workers' comp benefits today

Find workers' comp help in your state

Frequently asked questions about workers' comp payments

How much does workers’ comp pay for lost wages?

In most states, workers’ comp payments are worth two-thirds (66.67%) of a workers' average weekly wage (AWW) before taxes during the time before their injury or illness. Read more about how much workers’ comp pays in each state.

When does workers' comp start paying?

Each state sets its own waiting period before you can actually start receiving workers’ comp benefits. The wait is three to seven days in most areas but you can see when your state’s workers’ comp payments start here.

Does workers' comp cover medical bills?

Workers’ comp includes medical benefits that generally cover medical expenses that are necessary for you to recover from your injury or illness. Some states may cover additional costs, like transportation expenses.

Is there a limit to the workers’ comp payments I get?

Yes, states typically set a maximum workers’ comp payment. Many of them base this number on their statewide average wage (SAWW) — the average amount a worker earns in that state per week. Some states also set a minimum payment amount.

Can I increase my workers’ comp payment?

If you think you should be receiving more from workers’ compensation, you can appeal and present evidence that you deserve more. Check with your state workers’ comp board to learn how. A workers’ comp lawyer can also help you get the full amount you deserve, including from medical coverage and a settlement.

Can I work while on workers’ comp?

You can work while on workers’ comp as long as you follow your treating physician’s instructions. There’s no set number of hours you can work but you likely have to do light-duty work. Learn more about working while on workers’ comp.

Related resources:

What Happens If You Can't Return to Work After an Injury?

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

How Much Does Workers' Comp Pay in Every State?

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

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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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