If my claim was denied

When a claim is denied, it means the claims administrator believes your injury is not covered by workers’ compensation. If the claims administrator sends you a letter denying your claim, you have a right to challenge the decision. Don’t delay, because there are deadlines for filing the necessary papers. If you need help with your workers’ compensation claim, you can contact the Information and Assistance Unit. You may represent yourself or hire an attorney. If you contest the denial of your claim, your case will be heard by a workers’ compensation administrative law judge (WCJ) at one of the division's 23 local offices plus satellites.

What if I have a disagreement about my benefits?

At some point during your claim, you or the claims administrator might disagree with what your treating physician reports about your injury or treatment. When there is a disagreement about whether your claim is covered by workers’ compensation, you may be evaluated by a qualified medical evaluator (QME). To qualify as a QME, a physician must meet additional educational and licensing requirements. They must also pass a test and participate in ongoing education on the workers' compensation evaluation process. If you have an attorney, your attorney and your claims administrator might agree on a doctor to resolve medical disputes. This doctor is called an agreed medical evaluator (AME).

For injuries on or after Jan. 1, 2013, and as of July 1, 2013 for all dates of injury, disagreements about a specific course of medical treatment recommended by the treating physician can only be resolved through a process called independent medical review (IMR).

I want to object to the denial of my claim

If you want to object to the denial of your claim, you will need to file a case at one the division’s 24 offices located around the state. Each DWC office is a trial court where disputes that arise from workers’ compensation claims are decided by a judge without a jury.

How do I file a case?

In order to have your case heard by a judge, you must first file an Application for Adjudication of Claim. The application must be filed at the DWC office in the county where you live or in the county where you were injured. You must serve the application on all other parties, which is generally the claims administrator.

What happens next?

The DWC office where you filed the application will send you a notice confirming that it has been filed. The notice will include your assigned case number, which will begin with the letters “ADJ” followed by a sequence of numbers. Keep the notice and use the assigned case number on all documents and correspondence relating to your case.

How do I get a hearing before a judge?

You must file a Declaration of Readiness to Proceed to request a hearing. Your case will be scheduled for a hearing called a mandatory settlement conference (MSC).

What happens at the hearing?

You and your claims administrator or their attorney will appear before a judge. The judge will discuss the case with both of you and try to assist in reaching a settlement. If your case is not settled at the MSC, you will need to prepare documents that outline the dispute, identify the items each party will present at trial and the names of the witnesses that each party will ask to testify. The judge will then schedule a date for trial.

The trial will be held before another judge. You must attend the trial. The judge will issue a written decision after the trial and send it to you by mail, which usually occurs between 30 and 90 days after the trial. If either you or the claims adjustor disagrees with the judge’s decision, you can file a Petition for Reconsideration.

Want to learn more? Find it in the guidebook

Did you know?

  • You can attend a free seminar on workers’ compensation
  • You can contact the Information and Assistance Unit if you have questions or call the DWC Information Services Center at 1-800-736-7401 to speak to a live representative.
  • If you need assistance completing a form, you can use the DWC injured worker guides.
  • Forms may be obtained from the forms page of the DWC website or at local DWC district offices. Many forms needed to adjudicate a workers’ compensation claim are now submitted in optical character recognition (OCR) format so they may be scanned into EAMS.
  • You can consult an attorney. Lawyers who represent injured workers in their workers’ compensation cases are called applicants’ attorneys. Your attorney can’t directly charge you for his or her services. Your attorney’s fee will be paid out of a portion of your workers’ compensation benefits. You can get names of applicants’ attorneys from the State Bar of California, a local bar association, or the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association.
  • Your union may be able to help resolve problems, tell you about other benefits, negotiate changes needed in your job, protect you from job discrimination, and refer you to legal services.

Questions workers have:

March 2023