How Long Does a Workers’ Comp Claim Take To Be Paid on Average?

Understand the steps for your workers’ comp claim

By Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on January 29, 2023

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Getting injured on the job can bring significant life changes, from short-term impairments to permanent disabilities. “Besides having pain and needing medical treatment, [injuries] could also cause a loss of income in both the short and long-term,” says Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney Alfred J. Carlson

If you were injured while working for your employer, workers’ compensation benefits could cover expenses resulting from your injuries, including medical bills and lost wages.  

You may be wondering how long it may take to get workers’ comp benefits after you’ve been injured. The answer to that question depends on several factors, including your state’s workers’ compensation laws and specific circumstances. In general, the process can last several weeks or months. 

This article will cover the factors involved in getting your workers’ compensation benefits and point to further legal help. It’s always a good idea to speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer about your claim as soon as possible. 

How Workers’ Comp Works 

Nearly every state requires employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance for injuries that could occur in the workplace.  

Workers’ comp benefits are designed to cover medical expenses and lost wages resulting from an employee’s injuries in the workplace. The amount of a workers’ comp settlement depends on several factors: 

  • The type of injury or illness 
  • How long you will be out of work 
  • How your state calculates compensation payments 
  • Whether you accept a lump sum payment or get workers’ comp checks monthly 

Generally, medical benefits cover all medical treatment and related costs. This means injured employees can get medical care regardless of their workplace injuries or illness. 

Workers’ comp for lost wages is generally based on a worker’s average weekly wages before the incident. In many states, workers’ comp is equivalent to two-thirds of the worker’s average earnings, though the percentage is higher in some states. Even though they tend to be a lower amount, workers’ comp payments are not taxed. 

What Is the Process for Filing Workers’ Comp? 

The claims process for workers’ comp generally involves several steps. The time frame depends on several factors, including:  

  • Your state’s rules and procedures governing workers’ comp 
  • Whether the case settles  
  • Whether litigation is involved 

After you’ve been injured, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier will get involved and conduct an investigation into the claim.  

The insurance company will look into the workplace incident by speaking with you, coworkers who may have witnessed the incident, and your employer. The insurance company will also look at personal information, medical records, or other documentation that might help assess the claim.   

State law sets the timeline for the initial investigation. Generally, the investigation lasts anywhere from a couple of weeks (14 days) to a month (30 days).  

As with any area of law, the specifics vary by state.   

“In Pennsylvania, if you’re injured at work, some cases are picked up by the insurance company immediately. There is a 21-day investigation period by law. So, the insurance company has 21 days to investigate whether or not, in their opinion, you suffered a compensable work-related injury,” says Carlson.  

If an injured worker hasn’t started to receive workers’ compensation benefits after the 21-day investigation period, “they have a right to file a workers’ compensation claim,” he says.   

This claim “is assigned to a workers’ compensation judge in the county they live in,” he says.   

Once the case is assigned, “the judge will set a trial schedule.”  The plaintiff typically has “three months from the end of the first hearing…to present their case.” Then the employer will have three months “to present their case,” says Carlson.   

After this briefing schedule, “the judge [writes] a decision,” he says.   

“Many cases settle while a person is trying to receive workers’ compensation benefits,” he says, so that the process often only lasts a few months.  

However, “if a case has to be litigated fully, an injured employee could be waiting anywhere from nine to 12 months, potentially, before receiving the decision from the judge,” says Carlson.  

If the insurance company denies your workers’ comp claim, most states have a process for appealing the decision. Read this article to learn more about what to do if your workers’ comp claim is denied.  

Questions for a Workers’ Comp Attorney 

Filing a workers’ compensation claim can be complicated and time-consuming. If you have been injured and are recovering, dealing with the process can be challenging. It’s best to speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible to ensure the best outcome in your case. 

Many workers’ comp attorneys provide free consultations to learn about your case. These consultations allow you to get helpful legal advice and decide if the attorney or law firm meets your needs. 

To get the most out of a consultation, ask informed questions such as: 

  • Do you charge fees on a contingency basis? 
  • What can be covered in my workers’ comp case? 
  • What will my workers’ compensation settlement be worth? 
  • What is the workers’ comp claim process in my state? 
  • How long do I have to file a claim? To appeal a decision? 
  • Once I have filed a claim, how long will it take to get paid? 
  • Is a settlement likely in my case? 

Look for a workers’ compensation attorney in the Super Lawyers directory to help with workers’ comp issues.

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