State funds are, by law, designed to be self-supporting from their premium and investment revenue. As nonprofit departments of the state, or as independent nonprofit companies, they are able to return dividends or safety refunds to their policyholders. This reduces the overall cost of workers' compensation insurance. Numerous court decisions have determined that the assets, reserves, and surplus of the funds are not public funds, but are the property of employers who are insured by the funds or are in the nature of a trust to be held for the benefit of insured employers and their injured workers. Most state funds created in the last 20 years have been organized as mutual insurance companies.

State funds, for the most part, are subject to the same regulatory requirements as private companies, in terms of surplus and reserves. Major independent accounting and actuarial firms validate the funds' financial position and reserves.