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Workers’ Compensation Legal Process General Information


Workers’ Compensation is a program in which private insurers or self-insured employers provide insurance coverage if an employee succumbs to injuries out of and in the course of their employment. Workers’ compensation insurers and self-insured employers’ programs in the District of Columbia are overseen by the Office of Workers’ Compensation (OWC) in the Labor Standards Bureau of the Department of Employment Services.

For Employees:

As provided, workers’ compensation benefits may be available to employees whose injury arises out of and in the course of their employment. Not all injuries which occur on the job or at work are covered injuries, If an employee’s injury is accepted or awarded, the claimant might be entitled to disability benefits for wage loss, medical expenses, vocational rehabilitation, and transportation expenses.

To be eligible, you must timely notify your employer of your injury and timely file your claim with the OWC. All of these time limits are provided in the D.C. Workers’ Compensation Act, D.C. Code §§ 32-1501, et seq. and the D.C. Municipal Regulations, 7 DCMR 200, et. seq.

If the employer disputes the employee’s workers’ compensation claim for benefits as filed with the OWC, an Workers’ Compensation Informal Conference is held.  If the benefits remain in dispute, the employee has the right to be heard at a Formal Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge in the Administrative Hearings Division (AHD). Claimants may utilize the services of an attorney at any time in this process.

Currently, all OWC claims forms and requests for Informal Conference are filed by US Mail. However, the AHD now requires that all Applications for Formal Hearing, and most other filing,  be filed through the Administrative Hearings Division e-File portal.

For Employers:

When an employer becomes aware that an employee was injured on the job or when an employee notifies the employer of an injury, the employer must file an Employer’s First Report of Injury with the Office of Workers’ Compensation (OWC).  If the employer is insured or self-insured and is serviced by a third-party insurer administrator, you should notify them immediately. They may complete most, if not all, of the paperwork for you.

Employer and employer’s staff should be prepared to assist the third-party insurer with pre- and post-injury wage information, dates of employment, job description, and other documentation. If the third-party insurer contests the employee’s workers’ compensation claim, the employer should also be prepared to assist the insurer if and when the claim goes before an OWC Workers’ Compensation Informal Conference or goes before an AHD, Administrative Law Judge at a Formal Hearing.

Both parties, whether employee or employer, also have the right to dispute an AHD decision before the Compensation Review Board; who’s disputed decisions can finally be heard before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.  

E-File Portal:

To file any documents with the Administrative Hearings Division, you are required to register as a user in the e-File portal. Users include attorneys, self-represented employees, and some non-attorney designated employee representatives. You MUST have an ACTIVE Workers’ Compensation claim on file with OWC before you will be approved as a user to the e-filing system. Attorneys must have an active District of Columbia Bar license to be approved as a registered user.