If you’ve been hurt on the job, there’s a set timeline for making a workers’ compensation claim. Get the deadlines at a glance for each state.
No matter where they happen, personal injuries can have a profound effect on your livelihood. This is even more true of injuries in the workplace, as they can hurt and limit your body in ways that make it difficult or even impossible to do your job.
Fortunately, the law provides remedies to protect you from disaster, including workers’ compensation insurance. (Note that while you generally have to be an employee rather than an independent contractor to receive workers’ compensation benefits, this is not always the case.) More rarely, an injured worker may also have to file a lawsuit.
Whether you are trying to resolve your claim through the workers’ comp system or civil litigation, it’s important to promptly report and pursue your work-related injury claims. If you wait too long before you begin the process, you run the risk of reducing the amount of your injury benefits or payout.
If you miss an important deadline, you may be barred from bringing your claim at all.
All of this leads to an understandable question: How long do you have to report your injury and/or file your claim? In most cases, state law controls the answer to that question. This means that there are over 50 different answers, depending on where you live, who your employer is, and how you were injured.
This article will examine the timeline and reporting process for on-the-job injuries in the United States. It will also look at the various rules across the country. Finally, we’ll look at deadlines for bringing personal injury cases in courts. These time periods, contained in statutes of limitation, are critical in legal disputes.
How To File a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Most workplace injury claims are handled as a workers’ compensation (“workers’ comp”) claim. Workers’ comp is a type of insurance that pays benefits to employees who are injured on the job or get sick because of their job. It’s usually paid for by insurers, though in some cases independent contractors or construction subcontractors may obtain it for workers.
If you are injured or become sick as a result of your job, the first priority should always be getting appropriate medical care. If you need immediate medical attention, make sure that is taken care of before you address the legal aspects of your injury.
When you are no longer in an emergency situation, the first thing to do is report your injury to your employer or other entity that pays premiums on your workers’ comp coverage. Generally, you should make any report of an injury or illness in writing. Some state laws may allow a verbal report, but a written one is better whenever possible.
Many states will have their own specialized forms for reporting work-related injuries. Whether or not your state has these, keep in mind that your report will need to have all the relevant facts in the right order. It should also indicate safety concerns that may have contributed to the incident.
When you make your report with your company, pay attention to what they tell you to do next and follow those directions exactly. You will likely need to file a claim with either the workers’ compensation insurance carrier or a third-party administrator so that your claim can be investigated and processed.
State Deadlines for Work Injury Claims
A workers’ comp claim has two main parts. The first is to report the work injury to the company paying for workers’ comp insurance, usually your employer. The other is the claim you submit to the workers’ compensation insurance company itself. The deadlines for these claims vary depending on the law applicable to you.
The table below summarizes the general deadlines in each state. Also included is the information for federal employees covered by the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA).
Understanding Occupational Illness Claims
Note that some jurisdictions have “discovery” rules. This means that the time limit begins running from the earliest time that you could have known about the injury or illness. This is more applicable to claims of occupational illness.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, an occupational illness is an event or exposure in the workplace that either makes you sick or aggravates a medical condition you already have. These may be more difficult to spot because there isn’t usually a singular workplace accident that makes you sick.
For example, let’s say your state has a one-year claim deadline. You were exposed to asbestos 10 years ago. Just last week, you got sick and went to the doctor. You learned that the asbestos made you sick. Even though you were exposed a decade ago, you are still within your one-year claim deadline because you just learned of your work-related illness.
While some states have hard deadlines for giving notice of work injuries to employers and others only require it “as soon as possible,” it’s always better to report an injury as soon as possible. Even where a claim is made within the allowable time period, an insurance carrier may question your credibility if you waited before giving notice.
Some states may also reduce eligible benefits based on how long it took you to report and file a claim. It’s important to get timely legal advice before any of the applicable deadlines pass.
|Deadline To Report To Employer||Deadline To File Insurance Claim|
|Alabama||5 days to ensure payment of benefits
90 days if you can show satisfactory reason under statute for not giving notice within 5 days
|Alaska||30 days||2 years|
|California||30 days||1 year|
|Colorado||4 days||2 years|
|FECA (federal employees)||30 days (this requirement can be satisfied either by a report or by showing that the employer actually knew about the injury)||3 years|
|Florida||30 days||2 years|
|Georgia||30 days||1 year|
|Hawaii||ASAP||Claim must be made within 5 years after accident or occurrence and within 2 years after effects of injury become manifest / symptoms present|
|Illinois||45 days||3 years|
|Indiana||30 days||2 years|
|Iowa||90 days||2 years|
|Kansas||30 days (for repetitive stress injury), 20 days from first treatment (if still working for the company), 20 days from last day of work (if no longer working for company)||200 days|
|Louisiana||30 days||1 year (2 years for non-immediate injuries or illness)|
|Maine||30 days||2 years|
|Maryland||10 days||2 years (1 year for non-immediate injuries or illness)|
|Massachusetts||ASAP||4 years from discovery of the injury|
|Michigan||90 days||2 years|
|Minnesota||ASAP||6 years (or 3 years from from First Report of Injury by employer)|
|Mississippi||30 days||2 years|
|Missouri||30 days||2 years|
|Montana||30 days (1 year for non-immediate injuries or illness)||1 year (2 years for non-immediate injuries or illness)|
|Nevada||7 days||90 days from discovery|
|New Hampshire||2 years||3 years|
|New Jersey||14 days||2 years|
|New Mexico||15 days (if prevented from giving notice, 60 days with adequate excuse)||1 year after employer fails or refuses to pay any installment of compensation|
|New York||30 days||2 years|
|North Carolina||30 days||2 years|
|North Dakota||7 days||1 year (from injury or discovery)|
|Oklahoma||30 days||1 year (2 years from last exposure for non-immediate injury or illness)|
|Pennsylvania||21 days||3 years (300 weeks from last exposure for non-immediate injury or illness)|
|Rhode Island||30 days||2 years|
|South Carolina||90 days||2 years (from injury or discovery)|
|South Dakota||3 business days||2 years|
|Tennessee||15 days||1 year|
|Texas||30 days||1 year (from injury or discovery)|
|Utah||180 days||1 year|
|Virginia||30 days||2 years|
|Washington||ASAP||1 year (2 years from discovery for non-immediate injury or illness)|
|West Virginia||ASAP||6 months (3 years from discovery or last exposure for non-immediate injury or illness)|
|Wisconsin||30 days||2 years|
|Wyoming||72 hours for notice to company, 10 days to file Report of Injury with company and Wyoming workers’ comp division||1 year|
Statutes of Limitation for Lawsuits
If your injury claim is not covered by workers’ compensation for whatever reason, keep in mind that all personal injury claims are subject to your state’s statutes of limitation, which are laws that give time limits for settling your injury claim or filing a lawsuit. If you don’t bring your lawsuit within the statutory deadline, you lose your right to pursue compensation in or out of court.
For example, Nevada’s statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is within two years of the discovery of the injury.
Therefore, if you are a Nevada independent contractor without workers’ comp insurance and fail to file your complaint for more than two years, you will be barred from bringing any claim for your injury.
Deadlines are a harsh reality of personal injury litigation, and for this reason it’s very important to do things in a timely manner.
Watch the Clock and Protect Your Rights
After you have been injured on the job, you may feel like you don’t need one more thing to worry about. The legal aspects of your injury claim can feel like a hassle best left for another day. Ignoring it and letting it wait, though, can be a serious mistake. Whether you make a claim through workers’ compensation or a lawsuit, the clock is ticking.
If you or a loved one has been injured on the job and you are facing a lengthy claim process, don’t go it alone. Contact a qualified personal injury attorney or law firm in your state for a free consultation.
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