Hawaii employees who are injured at work or suffer from an employment-related illness are entitled to benefits under the state workers’ compensation system. The workers’ comp system in Hawaii covers medical bills related to your workplace injury and pays disability benefits while you are unable to work due to your illness or injury.
Almost all Hawaii employers, even those with just one part-time employee, are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance or get the state’s approval to self-insure (by showing that they’re financially capable of paying workers’ comp benefits for their employees). The Hawaii workers’ comp system is overseen by the Disability Compensation Division of the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. However, because most employers are insured through insurance companies, the insurance company typically reviews claims and pays benefits for accepted claims. In order to receive the maximum benefit from your employer’s insurance company, you will need to follow Hawaii’s workers’ comp rules for reporting your injury and getting medical treatment.
After a workplace injury, you will naturally be most concerned about getting immediate medical care. In an emergency, you should seek treatment at the nearest emergency room. In non-emergency situations, you must notify your employer of the injury first. In Hawaii, you are free to see any doctor you choose, but you can only have one treating physician at a time. When you visit your doctor, make sure to tell the doctor that your injury is work-related. If you doctor accepts workers’ comp patients, your medical bills will be sent directly to your employer’s insurance company. (For more information, see our article on tips for getting medical treatment through workers’ comp.)
In most cases in Hawaii, you must give written notice of your workplace injury to your employer “as soon as practicable.” The best approach is to notify your employer of your injury immediately after it happens and before seeking medical treatment. Sometimes, this will be impossible either because you need emergency care or because your supervisor is unavailable. In that case, report the injury as soon as you can or have a family member or friend report the injury on your behalf. When you report your injury, explain when and where the injury occurred, how the injury occurred, and what type of injury you sustained. Keep a copy for your records.
Within three days of your injury report, you should receive a copy of the pamphlet Highlights of the Hawaii Workers’ Compensation Law from your employer. Within seven working days of receiving your report, your employer must fill out an Employer’s Report of Industrial Injury and submit it to its insurance company and the Division. This is the official start to your workers’ comp claim. At this point, the insurance company will review your claim and decide whether to pay benefits.
You do not need to file any additional paperwork unless your employer fails to report your injury. In this case, you should file your claim directly with the Hawaii Disability Compensation Division by filing an Employee’s Claim for Workers’ Compensation Benefits (Form WC-5).
Hawaii workers’ comp pays temporary disability benefits, which replace part of your lost wages while you are recovering from your injury. These benefits are available once you miss work for more than three days. You will receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage prior to the injury, but no more than a maximum amount set by the Division each year. If you end up having a permanent disability due to your workplace injury, you are entitled to receive wage-replacement benefits for up to 312 weeks. The amount of your benefit is determined by the severity of your permanent disability. (To learn more, see our article on the different types of workers’ comp benefits.)
If the insurance company has denied your claim for benefits, you should file an Application for Hearing (Form WC-77). This starts the appeals process before the Division. A worker’s comp hearing will be held, at which a hearing officer will listen to testimony and receive other evidence. The hearing officer will issue a written decision in your case, usually within 60 days of the hearing.