Appealing a workers’ compensation decision

What are my rights?

I was turned down for workers’ compensation. To challenge the decision, do I need to go to court?
  • Yes
  • No

If you disagree with a decision on a workers’ compensation claim, you can request a review of the decision. If you’re still not satisfied, you can appeal to a tribunal.

What you should know

If you disagree with a WorkSafeBC decision

Workers’ compensation is a BC government program that compensates workers who suffer a workplace injury or illness, and provides support for their recovery. Claims for workers’ compensation are handled by WorkSafeBC, a government body that oversees the program. (Here, we explain what’s involved in making a claim.)

If you disagree with WorkSafeBC’s decision on your claim, you can request a review. If you aren’t satisfied with the outcome of the review, you can appeal the decision. We explain the process below. 

Types of decisions that can (and can’t) be appealed

Some review decisions by WorkSafeBC can’t be appealed. This includes:

  • a decision regarding vocational rehabilitation benefits

  • a decision about whether or not to refer a decision back to WorkSafeBC

  • a decision not to give you more time to bring your review

  • the way a review officer handled your case

  • a request for a lump sum award for a permanent disability

Common types of decisions that can be appealed include:

  • whether a certain type of injury or illness is covered by workers’ compensation

  • whether a workers’ injury or illness arose out of and during the course of employment

  • whether someone was a worker when they were injured

  • the amount of money or benefits awarded

You have options for getting help or advice

“I was pretty shaken when WorkSafeBC denied my claim for workers’ compensation. It felt unfair, and I didn’t want that to be the end of it. I decided to ask for a review of the decision. Initially, I thought I could go through the process myself. But it quickly became overwhelming. So I reached out to a workers’ adviser, and they helped me along every step of the way.”

– Drew, Victoria, BC

You can challenge a WorkSafeBC decision on your own. But it can be helpful to speak to someone who understands the workers’ compensation system. That could be a union representative, a lawyer, or a workers’ adviser. 

If you’re a union member, discuss your claim with your union. They may have a representative who can help, or they may hire a lawyer if it’s a serious case. You may want to hire your own lawyer anyway.

You can also contact the Workers’ Advisers Office. This is a government body separate from WorkSafeBC. They provide free advice and assistance to workers who disagree with a decision made by WorkSafeBC. The BC government website has more details.

You can get a copy of your claims file

On the WorkSafeBC website, you can view all the information associated with your claim. You can also request a copy of your claim, and WorkSafeBC will send the information to you. 

To request a copy, complete and send a request for disclosure form to this address:

Disclosure Department

WorkSafeBC

PO Box 4700 Stn Terminal

Vancouver, BC V6B 1J1

All your information is usually in your claim file, but sometimes other WorkSafeBC records have personal information too. To see these records, send a written request to:

Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Office

WorkSafeBC

PO Box 2310 Stn Terminal

Vancouver, BC V6B 3W5

The steps to appeal

Step 1. Ask for a review

If you disagree with WorkSafeBC’s decision on your claim, the first step is to ask for a review. You must submit your request for a review within 90 days of the decision. Reviews are handled by WorkSafeBC’s Review Division. Usually, they have 150 days to complete the review. 

For guidance on what types of claims can be reviewed and how to submit a request, visit the WorkSafeBC website.

Step 2. Start an appeal

If you disagree with the outcome of the review, you can appeal the decision. You bring your appeal to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal. You must submit a notice of appeal to the tribunal within 30 days of the review decision.

You have three options for starting an appeal:

  • Fill out the notice of appeal form online. You can complete and submit the form on the tribunal’s website. Or you can print it out and send it by mail or fax.

  • Send a letter to the tribunal by email, mail or fax explaining why you think the review decision was wrong. Tell them the specific outcome you want (for example, more compensation). 

  • Call the tribunal to let them know you intend to appeal. You’ll be given time to submit a notice of appeal form (usually 21 days). 

For more on how to start an appeal, visit the tribunal’s website.

Step 3. Prepare your appeal 

There are two ways to make an appeal: at an oral hearing or through written submissions. You can ask for the method you’d prefer, but the tribunal gets the final say. 

Let’s take a closer look at each method.

Oral hearing

Oral hearings are a meeting where both parties explain their case to a member of the tribunal, called the vice chair. After hearing both sides, the vice chair makes a final decision. Oral hearings aren’t as formal as going to court, but they do require preparation.

Most hearings are held by videoconference, although some are in person or by phone.

The tribunal has more on what happens at an oral hearing.

Written submissions

The purpose of your written submission is to persuade the tribunal to see the evidence in a way that favours you. It’s your opportunity to tell them why you should win your appeal, and what benefits you think you should receive. 

The tribunal has more on providing a written submission.

Include your appeal number on any written material

When the tribunal confirms they’ve received your appeal, they will issue you an appeal number. Make sure to include your appeal number on any written material you submit.

Steps to prepare

Regardless of how you’re making your appeal, there are some key steps to prepare:

  • Review your WorkSafeBC file. The material in your file will tell you what evidence and policies were used to make the decision on your claim. This can help you decide on what evidence you want to introduce. You’ll receive an email explaining how to access your file. If you can’t access your file on a computer, you can ask for a paper copy. 

  • Do some research. Look up past decisions or appeals that are similar to your situation. Understand the laws and policies that apply in your case.

  • Collect evidence. Have evidence for each point you want to make. This could include medical reports, financial records, photos, or anything from your claim file. 

The tribunal has more on preparing for your appeal

Step 4. After you’ve made your appeal

At this stage, you have three options if you disagree with the tribunal’s decision:

  • Ask for a reconsideration. The tribunal will reconsider a decision in very limited circumstances. For example, if there is new evidence that wasn’t available when the decision was made.

  • Ask for a correction of an error or omission. The tribunal will correct any accidental errors or omissions in their decision (such as a spelling mistake). You can also ask them to clarify their decision if it’s not clear to you.

  • Ask for a judicial review. In some cases, you can ask the Supreme Court of BC to set aside the decision on judicial review. You must file your petition for judicial review within 60 days of the decision date. 

The tribunal explains these options.

Who can help

Helpful agencies

WorkSafeBC
Runs the workers’ compensation program in British Columbia.
Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal
Hears appeals of review decisions made by WorkSafeBC.
Workers’ Advisers Office
Provides advice and assistance to workers who disagree with a decision made by WorkSafeBC.

  • Reviewed in August 2021
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Time to read: 6 minutes

Reviewed for legal accuracy by

Richard Johnson, Ascent Employment Law and Sara Hanson, Moore Edgar Lyster LLP

Richard Johnson
Sara Hanson

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