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Types of Workers' Compensation in California

Last updated: November 19, 2023

In California, there are various types of workers' compensation benefits available to employees who have been injured or become ill due to work-related activities. These benefits are designed to provide financial assistance and support to the injured worker during their recovery process. 

In this article, we will discuss the various types of workers' compensation benefits available in California, including medical benefits, temporary disability benefits, permanent disability benefits, vocational rehabilitation benefits, and death benefits.

Medical Benefits and Treatment Coverage

Medical benefits are a critical component of workers' compensation insurance. This benefit covers all necessary medical treatment required due to a work-related injury or illness, without any out-of-pocket expenses for the injured worker. Some of the covered medical expenses include the following:

  • Doctor visits

  • Hospital treatment

  • Diagnostic tests (such as X-rays and MRIs)

  • Medication

  • Physical therapy

  • Necessary medical equipment

In California, employees are entitled to receive medical treatment from a provider within the employer's Medical Provider Network (MPN) or Health Care Organization (HCO). If the employee wishes to select a provider outside of these networks, they may do so after 30 days following the injury, provided that they have notified their employer in writing.

It is essential to note that the employer is obligated to cover all medical expenses, irrespective of the extent of the injury or the duration of the treatment required. The injured worker must cooperate with the treating doctor and follow their prescribed treatment plan to continue receiving medical benefits.

Temporary Disability Benefits

Temporary disability benefits in California are provided to help workers who are unable to work temporarily due to their injury or illness. These benefits will usually cover two-thirds of the employee's average weekly wages, subject to specific maximum and minimum limits depending on the worker's salary.

In California, temporary disability benefits are paid for a maximum of 104 weeks within a 5-year period from the date of injury. These benefits typically begin after the third day of disability; however, if the worker is unable to work for more than 14 days, they become eligible for retroactive payments from the first day of their disability.

It is important to note that temporary disability benefits are meant to replace lost income and not to provide compensation for the injury or illness itself. Once the worker is deemed medically stable and able to return to work, the temporary disability benefits may be terminated.

Permanent Disability Benefits

In cases where work-related injuries or illnesses result in long-term or permanent impairment for the worker, they may be eligible for permanent disability benefits. The California Workers' Compensation Act defines a permanent disability as a lasting impairment that causes a reduced earning capacity.

Permanent disability benefits are based on a percentage of disability, which is determined by a qualified medical examiner. The amount and duration of these benefits depend on the extent of the worker's impairment and their pre-injury earnings.

Once a worker is assessed with a permanent disability rating, they will receive weekly payments for a specific number of weeks, as determined by California's workers' compensation schedule. The payments are generally two-thirds of the worker's average weekly wages, subject to maximum and minimum limits.

Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits

Injured workers who are unable to return to their previous job duties due to their injury or illness may qualify for vocational rehabilitation benefits. These benefits aim to help the worker acquire new skills, training, or education to enable them to return to suitable employment.

California's workers' compensation system provides various vocational rehabilitation services, including vocational counseling, job placement assistance, and financial support for necessary education or training. The goal of these services is to help the injured worker reach their maximum level of self-sufficiency and return to the workforce.

Death Benefits and Burial Expenses

In the unfortunate event of a work-related death, the worker's dependents may be entitled to death benefits in California. These benefits are meant to provide financial assistance to the deceased worker's spouse, children, or other dependents who relied on the worker's income for support. Death benefits are typically calculated as a percentage of the worker's average weekly wages, subject to specific maximum and minimum limits.

In addition to death benefits, the employer's workers' compensation insurance must also cover reasonable burial expenses, up to a maximum amount as determined by California state law. These benefits assist the grieving family with expenses related to the funeral and burial arrangements of their loved one.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are medical benefits in workers' compensation, and what do they cover?

Medical benefits in workers' compensation cover necessary medical treatment and related expenses, including doctor visits, surgeries, medications, diagnostic tests, rehabilitation services, and medical devices. 

2. What are temporary disability benefits, and when are they applicable?

Temporary disability benefits provide wage replacement to employees who are temporarily unable to work due to a work-related injury or illness. These benefits generally cover a portion of the lost wages during the recovery period until the employee reaches maximum medical improvement.

3. How are permanent disability benefits determined, and what do they provide?

Permanent disability benefits compensate employees for lasting impairments resulting from work-related injuries or illnesses. The extent of the impairment, as assessed by medical professionals, and other factors such as age, occupation, and earning capacity, determine the amount of permanent disability benefits.

4. What are supplemental job displacement benefits, and who is eligible for them?

Supplemental job displacement benefits are available to employees who experience a permanent partial disability but are not able to return to their pre-injury job. These benefits provide vouchers to help cover the cost of skill enhancement, retraining, education, or other qualifying expenses to facilitate finding new employment or transitioning to a different career.

5. What services are provided under vocational rehabilitation in workers' compensation?

Vocational rehabilitation services assist injured employees in returning to suitable and gainful employment following a work-related injury or illness. These services may include job placement assistance, counseling, vocational training, transferable skills assessment, and support in exploring new career opportunities.


Understanding the types of workers' compensation benefits in California is essential for protecting your well-being and financial stability in the face of work-related injuries or illnesses. 

By familiarizing yourself with medical benefits, temporary and permanent disability benefits, supplemental job displacement benefits, and vocational rehabilitation services, you can ensure that you access the appropriate support available to you.

To learn more about how much Workers’ Comp pay in California, check out Disability Help’s in-depth guide.

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Chloe works with policymakers on behalf of Disability Help to support their work at a strategic level, ensuring the conditions are in place for creative individuals and organizations to grow, reach their potential and effect relevant, sustainable change.
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