Picking up an illness as a result of your job can significantly affect your work duties. In 2020, workplace illnesses forced approximately 4,200 South Carolinians to take time off work or change their job duties. If your illness keeps you out of work for an extended period, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation.

South Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws cover employees who develop a work-related illness, but it isn’t always clear who is eligible. Read on to learn when an illness is covered under workers’ compensation in South Carolina and how Joye Law Firm can help you file your claim.

Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Illnesses?

While most people associate workers’ compensation with physical on-the-job injuries, South Carolina law also offers workers’ comp to employees who become sick due to their job.

However, catching a cold or flu at work does not make you eligible for workers’ compensation. To receive workers’ comp, the illness, referred to as an “occupational disease” in workers’ compensation claims, must be:

  • Caused directly by your work duties
  • A condition not considered an “ordinary disease of life,” like a cold or flu
  • Unrelated to the outside climate
  • Transmitted by someone other than a colleague
  • Unrelated to your joints

Some illnesses also have specific requirements to be eligible for workers’ comp. For example, if your occupational disease affects your heart or lungs, the sickness must result from exposure to a harmful substance at work.

The Challenge in Obtaining Workers’ Comp for an Illness

Getting workers’ comp for an illness is much more complicated than a physical injury. While workplace injuries only require proof that your injury occurred at work, workplace illnesses require proof that your condition resulted directly from your job duties or conditions on your worksite.  You must have direct medical evidence that your employment caused or is highly likely to have caused your illness.

South Carolina requires that you follow specific procedures to be eligible for workers’ compensation for an illness. These procedures include notifying your employer of your illness within 90 days, treating with a doctor of their choice, and filing your compensation claim within a set time. For occupational diseases, you must file within two years of being diagnosed with the condition. Failure to follow these procedures can result in a denial your claim and loss of benefits.

How to File a Claim for an Occupational Illness

You can file a workers’ comp claim for an illness on your own, but managing deadlines can be challenging when you’re sick. Seeking assistance from experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at Joye Law Firm can make the process more straightforward.

Step 1: Notify Your Employer

South Carolina law requires that you let your employer know of any work-related illness or injury within 90 days of becoming sick. If you didn’t know you were ill (for example, you have an asymptomatic condition), you must notify your employer within 90 days after you find out or suspect that you have a work related illness. Our attorneys can help you inform your employer appropriately, so you do not lose out on benefits.

Step 2: Visit a Medical Professional Recommended by Your Employer

Once you report your illness to your employer, they will recommend a doctor to you. To be eligible for workers’ comp, you must treat with their doctor; seeing any other doctor may result in a denial of your workers’ compensation claim unless you were experiencing a medical emergency.

Our attorneys can ensure you receive thorough medical treatment from your employer’s chosen physician and get a second opinion if a question arises about the quality of care or diagnosis you receive

Step 3: File Form 50 with the Workers’ Compensation Commission

Ill or injured employees must file Form 50, the workplace injury claim form, within two years of the diagnosis of their illness. You can find this form on the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission’s website.  The Joye Law Firm files a Form 50 every time a client signs up to protect that client’s rights and right to benefits.

Step 4: Follow the Doctor’s Instructions

Once you begin seeing a doctor for a workplace illness, you must follow the doctor’s treatment plan and schedule for returning to work. Not adhering to your treatment plan, refusing possible treatment, or refusing to return to work when cleared can make you ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

If you don’t agree with the doctor’s suggestions or want a second opinion, you can speak to your employer’s workers’ comp representative and request another doctor.  You have no choice but to file for a hearing with the Workers’ Compensation Commission if they deny your request. The attorneys at Joye Law Firm can help you file and prepare for your hearing and represent you at the hearing for your claim. The employer and their insurance company will have their own attorney at the hearing, so it is crucial that the injured worker have an attorney as well in order to be successful at a hearing.

At any time: Consult a Workers’ Compensation Attorney

Filing for workers’ compensation can be a confusing process.  Failure to provide or file required forms or documents, or comply with the many workers compensation statutes and regulations and complex deadlines can result in a loss of benefits and dismissal of the claim.

Get the Benefits You Deserve with Joye Law Firm

At Joye Law Firm, we are dedicated to helping victims of workplace illnesses earn the compensation they deserve. We’re ready to help you investigate the circumstances of your occupational disease and gather evidence for your claim. We can also help you submit your workers’ compensation documents, represent you during a hearing, and answer your questions about the process.

Contact us today for a free initial consultation to help you get started toward receiving the benefits you’re owed after suffering a workplace illness.

About the Author

Ken Harrell joined Joye Law Firm in 1994, and has been the managing partner since 2006. With 30 years of experience, he protects the rights of injured South Carolinians, including cases involving workers’ compensation, car accidents, and defective products. Ken also leads the firm’s referral practice, helping to ensure that our clients receive the best possible representation. He is a past president of South Carolina Injured Workers’ Advocates, and has served as the co-chairman of this organization’s legislative affairs committee for 12 years.

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