Across the United States, more than 1 million work injuries involving days away from work are reported annually. That’s more than 2,900 injuries per day. The total number of reported work injuries is much higher: about 1.5 million additional work injuries are minor enough not to require missed work time. In total, that means more than 7,000 reported work injuries per day. Another 5,000+ U.S. workers suffer fatal injuries on the job.
If you’ve been injured on the job, you may be worried about lost income and medical bills. Fortunately, under South Carolina law, most injured workers are entitled to medical care and some replacement income until they are able to return to work. The system is meant to speed up and simplify the process for injured employees to get the medical attention and income they need during their recovery, and to minimize conflict between employers and their workforces.
In a workers’ comp case, the injured employee doesn’t have to prove that the employer was negligent, or did anything wrong at all. Injuries are generally covered if they occurred in the course of employment, even if there was nothing the employer could have done to prevent them. That means many workers who could not have received compensation under South Carolina personal injury law have a source of coverage for their medical bills and lost earnings.
There’s a trade-off, though. Workers’ compensation is an exclusive remedy in South Carolina, meaning that the injured person generally can’t sue the employer even if they were negligent. That means the compensation available may be much more limited. For example, the responsible party in a personal injury case might be required to compensate the injured person for intangible losses like pain and suffering. Workers’ compensation doesn’t provide any such benefits. Workers’ compensation won’t even pay for non-medical expenses that may be necessary because of the injury, such as paying someone else to provide child care you are unable to provide on your own.
To ensure that you don’t miss out on compensation you may be entitled to, it’s best to work with an attorney who regularly handles both workers’ compensation claims and personal injury cases. That’s because a workers’ comp lawyer who is also a personal injury lawyer will have the broader knowledge necessary to recognize any possible additional claims, and to pursue those claims on your behalf.
When you’re injured at work, the first step is to notify your employer of the injury. Technically, South Carolina law allows you up to 90 days to report the injury. But, it would be a very bad idea to delay. Instead, you should report the injury as soon as it happens. If you’ve already been injured and didn’t report the injury right away, do so as soon as possible.
If you wait too long to report your injury, it may be difficult to prove that you hurt yourself at work. Or, your employer and their workers’ compensation carrier may argue that the work accident wasn’t the cause of the medical problems that follow.
Once you’ve notified your employer, they may provide you with Form 50, which is required to initiate a claim. Don’t worry, though–if they don’t provide you with the form, you can download it from the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. Legally, you have two years to file this form. However, as a practical matter, you’ll generally want to get it filed right away. This form is your request for medical assessment and treatment, and for temporary disability payments if you are unable to work due to your injury.
The most common type of weekly compensation is temporary total disability (TTD). This is replacement income you receive when you are unable to work while recovering from your work-related injury. The weekly payment is ⅔ of your regular weekly income. However, weekly compensation is capped at $1,035.78 in 2023. This number is adjusted annually.
Depending on your medical condition, you may be cleared to return to work with restrictions or on light duty. If your employer offers work you are medically cleared to perform, you must accept that work or risk losing your benefits. However, if the work is paid at a lower rate or you are only cleared to work part-time, you may still receive partial temporary disability compensation while you work.
If your injuries are permanent, you may receive permanent total disability payments for up to 500 weeks, or about nine years and seven months. But, most people with long-term injuries settle their claims. This is a complicated process in which formulas are applied based on the body parts that were injured and how seriously injured they were.
When negotiating a workers’ compensation settlement, you’ll need to persuade the insurance company that you would be able to demonstrate both the work-related cause of your injury and the nature and extent of your injuries. And, if you can’t reach a fair settlement, you may have to proceed to a hearing, where you’ll have to present evidence of both. The negotiation and hearing processes are best undertaken with the help of an experienced Charleston workers’ comp lawyer.
Of course, this isn’t a complete list. Any time you have concerns about your workers’ compensation claim, it’s a good idea to consult an attorney. It’s also wise to talk to a workers’ compensation lawyer before accepting a settlement, especially if you have suffered a serious or permanent injury.
The workers’ compensation system was created to provide a simpler, less adversarial way for injured workers to get treatment and compensation. But, workers’ comp insurance carriers operate like any other insurance company. Their profits depend on taking in more in premiums than they pay out in compensation and benefits. So, they have an incentive to find reasons to deny claims, or to minimize the payout on larger claims.
At The Hartman Law Firm, we offer free consultations to people who have been hurt on the job. Schedule yours right now to get the information you need to make good decisions about your next steps. There’s never any obligation.
Call (843) 300-7600 right now to get started, or fill out the contact form at the bottom of this page.