What is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a means of compensating injured workers who have been hurt while they were working. This system replaces the traditional tort system of injury compensation, in which workers would sue their employers to gain compensation. Instead, employers now have to acquire workers’ compensation coverage that will pay injured workers a set amount for their injury. However, workers’ compensation laws largely prevent workers from being able to file personal injury lawsuits against their employers.
Who is Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
Most South Carolina employees are covered by workers’ compensation the day they start their job. This is because it is the employer’s duty to provide workers’ compensation coverage by law. However, there are a few exceptions to this law, including:
- Railroad company employees
- Federal employees
- Agricultural workers / farm hands
- Real estate agents
- Businesses with fewer than four employees
What Should I do if I’m Injured at Work in South Carolina?
- If your injury creates an emergency situation, you need to seek immediate medical help. Let all of the emergency medical technicians, nurses and doctors who are providing you with emergency treatment that you sustained your injury at work (if possible). If your injury is not an emergency, or if the situation has stopped being an emergency, inform your employer as soon as possible. Give your employer a notice of your injury in writing, that states your name, the date of your injury, and a brief description of what happened leading up to your injury. It is important to notify your employer soon, and you will only have 90 days to give your employer notice before you start to lose your right to compensation under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation law.
- Once notified, your employer will fill out a First Report of Injury form. You can fill out a similar form as well, if your employer fails or refuses to do so. Once you give notice, your employer will tell you which doctor you need to visit for your injury. This doctor will give you an examination to determine the extent of your injury, and will give you initial treatment. If your claim is approved by your employer’s insurance company, you should expect to receive your first payment within a few weeks.
What Benefits are Available Under South Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Law?
There are many different kinds of compensation available to injured workers. South Carolina’s workers’ compensation law requires insurance companies to pay for a worker’s relevant medical bills and provide traveling fee reimbursement. Benefits also extend to those of a deceased worker’s family. If a worker dies on the job, a portion of his salary will be paid to the decedent’s dependents. The benefits used the most in worker’s compensation are income benefits, of which there are two different kinds:
- Total Disability Benefits
If your injury completely stops you from returning to work, you may qualify for Total Disability (TD) benefits. TD benefits will compensate you for two-thirds of the average weekly wage that you earned before your injury. You will not be paid any income benefits for the first week of your injury, unless your injury lasts longer than two weeks. The maximum amount of time that you can receive TD benefits is 500 weeks. However, injuries that are considered total and permanent are not subject to the 500 week compensation limit. The injuries that are generally assumed to be total and permanent are:
- Loss of hands
- Loss of arms
- Loss of shoulders
- Loss of feet
- Loss of legs
- Loss of hips
- Partial Disability Benefits
If your injury limits the amount of work or money that you can obtain, you may qualify for Partial Disability (PD) benefits. PD benefits are equal to the difference in wages you made before and after your injury. The number of weeks that you may be compensated for depends on the part of your body the injury occurred and the extent of the injury. The different injury locations have an allocated number of weeks for compensation under South Carolina State Code, Title 42, Chapter 9, Sec. 30. The number of weeks that you may be compensated for is limited to a maximum of 340 weeks. Note that the amount of compensation that you are paid each week is also limited to South Carolina’s state average weekly wage.
What Should I do if my South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claim is Denied?
If your claim was denied, it may have been due to a mistake in the way the claim was filed or because there was no evidence that your injury was work-related.
If your claim has been denied, you should always retain an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. The claims and appeals process can be very complicated, and requires an in-depth knowledge of law. Your attorney may be able to appeal your claim denial and fight for you to get the compensation you deserve.