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The simple answer, is yes. However, there are important details you need to be aware of to ensure your rights are protected.

Being injured on the job might require a lot of medical attention, including emergency visits, hospital stays, and ongoing physical therapy. Debilitating injuries can lead to missing several days or weeks of work or needing time off to attend appointments.

If you’re considering filing for workers’ compensation, you may worry about whether your employer will give you time away from work. If you have already filed a claim, you may also want to know what appointments are covered.

Learn about your legal protections and how a South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer from Joye Law Firm can maximize your benefits and protect your rights.

Legal Protections for Covered Medical Care

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act regulation 29 CFR 785.43, employees are entitled to certain protections when seeking medical attention related to a work-related injury. If you get hurt at work and need medical care during work hours, you should be paid for the time you spend getting that care.

In South Carolina, workers’ compensation follows this federal guideline, covering all authorized medical expenses related to your on-the-job injury. However, you must provide a work excuse to your supervisor or human resources department after each visit to a healthcare provider.

Paid vs. Unpaid Doctor Visits: What’s Covered Under S.C. Workers Comp?

In South Carolina, workers’ compensation typically covers a range of medical expenses related to your work-related injury. These may include:

  • Initial Medical Examination: Following a work-related injury, the first visit to a healthcare provider to assess your condition is usually covered.
  • Follow-Up Treatments: Any subsequent treatments, therapies, or surgeries prescribed by the authorized treating physician necessary for your recovery are covered.
  • Specialist Consultations: If referred by your authorized treating physician, visits to specialists for further evaluation or treatment are typically paid for.
  • Emergency Care: Immediate medical attention received for injuries sustained at work, including emergency room visits, is covered.
  • Travel Expenses Reimbursement: You’re entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses related to receiving treatment. This includes mileage for trips within a 10-mile round-trip at $0.67 per mile and the cost of public transportation, overnight lodging, and meals.

There are a few doctor visits that workers’ compensation may not pay for, such as:

  • Unauthorized Treatments: Visits to doctors or specialists not authorized by your employer or their insurance are not covered in South Carolina.
  • Non-Work Related Appointments: Medical visits unrelated to your work injury or illness are not paid for under workers’ compensation.
  • Cosmetic Procedures: Treatments deemed cosmetic and not essential for recovery from your work-related injury may not be covered.

What Is the Physician’s Role in Your Care?

After filing for workers’ compensation, your employer will designate a treating physician to oversee your medical care. This provider will handle all aspects of your treatment, including:

  • Referring You to Specialists: Your treating physician may refer you to other healthcare professionals, such as physical or occupational therapists, and specialists like orthopedic surgeons, neurologists, or pain management experts. These referrals ensure comprehensive and specialized care tailored to your injury or condition.
  • Authorizing Absences From Work: If your injury or illness requires you to be absent from work, your treating physician is responsible for granting medical approval for your leave for health-related reasons. This lets you take time off to recover without jeopardizing your employment status or workers’ compensation benefits.
  • Setting Work Limitations: If you are ready to return to work but still have physical limitations, your treating physician may restrict your ability to perform certain tasks or engage in full-time employment. These limitations are designed to protect your well-being and prevent worsening of your condition.
  • Determining Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI): Your treating physician will track your recovery and decide when you’ve reached MMI, indicating your condition has stabilized and is unlikely to improve with further medical treatment. MMI affects future benefits and your ability to work, making it an important consideration.
  • Evaluating Long-Term Impairments: Your doctor evaluates lasting impairments caused by a workplace accident or disease. This assessment determines the long-term effects of your injury on your health and lifestyle, influencing the level of compensation and support you may receive.

Are You Required to Use Personal Vacation Time for Medical Appointments?

When seeking medical care for a workplace injury, your employer cannot force you to use personal vacation or paid time off (PTO) for doctor visits or treatments. Workers’ compensation covers medical expenses and compensates for wages lost due to injuries incurred at work, and it operates independently of your vacation or PTO benefits.

You can seek medical attention for work-related injuries without sacrificing your personal leave benefits. This ensures that you don’t lose out on personal time off that you might need for relaxation or personal matters, separate from any work-related injury or illness.

Protect Your Workers’ Compensation Benefits After an Injury

If you’re filing for workers’ compensation and need time off for doctor appointments, it’s crucial to be aware of your legal protections. If you have questions or need legal guidance regarding workers’ compensation, speak with our experienced attorneys at Joye Law Firm.

We can investigate your workplace accident, ensure your employer abides by South Carolina workers’ compensation laws, and help you maximize your benefits. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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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