A workplace injury can be devastating physically, as well as financially. It can leave you facing huge medical bills. Your injury may also disable you, making you unable to work temporarily or permanently. This can significantly lower your earning power as a result of physical limitations caused by your on-the-job accident.
When you experience a workplace injury, South Carolina law provides you with the right to compensation so you do not suffer serious financial losses on top of the damage to your health and well-being.
Talk With Our SC Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Today
At Joye Law Firm, our attorneys have represented injured people since 1968. We have helped many clients make a claim for benefits or fight improper denials or limitations placed on their benefits.
Joye Law Firm has offices in Myrtle Beach, Clinton and Charleston, but our workers’ compensation attorneys represent clients throughout South Carolina, including Florence, Richland County, Orangeburg, Columbia, Horry County (Conway and North Myrtle Beach), North Charleston, Mount Pleasant and Summerville.
What You Need to Know About South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Benefits
South Carolina law provides injured workers with a number of different types of workers’ comp benefits. First and foremost, you are provided with full compensation for medical bills and treatment costs. Workers’ compensation also covers lost wages if your injury causes you to miss work, and it provides you with full or partial disability benefits for long- and short-term disabilities. Finally, for certain types of injuries, including those that are disfiguring or that cause permanent injury, you could receive additional compensation based on the severity of your condition.
Some of the specific types of benefits that you could receive through workers’ compensation in South Carolina include:
Temporary total disability benefits
If you suffer a work-related injury or illness that causes you to be completely disabled and unable to work for a specific period of time, you may be compensated for lost wages at a rate of 2/3 your average weekly wage. The method of calculating your average weekly wage is specified in South Carolina’s code of laws in Title 42 and involves looking at the four quarters before your work-related injury occurred.
However, there is a cap on the compensation you can receive. As of 2012, the maximum weekly compensation for those who were temporarily totally disabled was $725.47. Many times, insurance carriers underestimate an injured worker’s average weekly wage by failing to take into consideration overtime wages and bonus payments. These types of benefits are meant to last only until you have recovered to the maximum degree you can.
Ideally, you’ll be able to return to work at this point, but if you can’t, then your benefits will continue until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). After 150 days have passed since the work accident that caused your injury, your employer’s insurer cannot unilaterally terminate your weekly benefits but it is able to request a hearing to terminate your temporary total disability benefits.
Temporary partial disability
Many workers are unaware of the existence of temporary partial disability benefits and, as a result, many who would be entitled to these benefits never claim them. Don’t be one of those people. If you suffer an injury that restricts you from performing some work duties or tasks, you may qualify for temporary partial disability benefits if your income is reduced as a result. For example, you may be given reduced work hours as a result of being unable to perform certain tasks, or you may even be reassigned to a different and lower-paying job while your injury heals. If this occurs, then the difference between what you make while partially disabled and what you were making before your work injury should be paid.
Under South Carolina law, your temporary partial disability benefits are calculated by taking 2/3 of the difference between your current wages while on restricted or light duty and your average weekly gross wages before the injury. For example, if you were making $900 before you were injured and $500 per week while partially disabled, the difference between your pre-injury wages and your light-duty wages is $400. You would receive temporary partial disability benefits equal to 2/3 of this amount.
Permanent partial disability benefits
In some cases, an injury that causes a partial disability will never completely go away, and your earning power may be permanently reduced as a result. For instance, if you were working in a labor-intensive job such as those in construction, you may not be able to continue doing this work. Although you might not be totally disabled and you could get a job elsewhere or doing something else, your income might be permanently lower as a result. If this is the case, then you could receive benefits for permanent, partial disability.
Many workers are not aware that these types of benefits exist, since insurance companies and their lawyers aren’t going to voluntarily offer these benefits to you or even inform you about them. As such, it is important that you have your own lawyer assisting you as you settle your workers’ compensation claim.
In many cases, the compensation you will receive for permanent partial disability can be significantly better. Your compensation will be determined based on reports from medical professionals as well as testimony about the impact of your medical condition on your livelihood, so it is important to have a certified vocational consultant evaluate you. Your lawyer can help you find a consultant.
Scheduled member disability benefits
If you suffer certain types of permanent injuries, such as the loss of a limb, then you are entitled to a specific payment based on the severity of your injury as rated by a physician. The rating given by your doctor is called your “impairment rating.” Your employer can choose the doctor who assigns your impairment rating, and many employees wrongly believe that they have to accept what this physician says and not seek a second opinion. If you have a workers’ compensation attorney, your lawyer may be able to arrange an independent medical examination to have a third-party specialist evaluate the severity of your injury and provide an opinion on an impairment rating. Getting a second opinion from a doctor who can advocate for you may significantly improve the final amount of compensation you receive from workers’ compensation.
Total and permanent disability benefits
If the effect of your injuries is such that no reasonably stable job market exists for you, then you may be considered totally and permanently disabled and entitled to permanent disability benefits. There are a host of factors which are considered in determining if a reasonably stable job market exists, including the nature of your injury, any permanent physical restrictions, your age, your educational background, your work history, and even the state of the economy in your locality.
If most cases involving a claim for total and permanent disability, an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer will coordinate an evaluation of you be a vocational consultant to address these factors. Typically, the amount of benefits you will receive is limited to the equivalent of 500 weeks of benefits, except in cases where you have suffered a physical brain injury or where you have become a paraplegic or quadriplegic or otherwise paralyzed. In these special cases, you may be entitled to receive lifetime benefits.
The South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled that partial paralysis qualifies as paraplegia under our law, entitling the injured worker to lifetime benefits. Whenever you believe you have suffered an ongoing and permanent disability that makes you completely unable to work, it is imperative you get legal help. Your case may be worth thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars over your lifetime and you should consult with a lawyer to make sure you get the full amount you deserve.
Your Right to a Hearing in a SC Workers’ Comp Case
If your employer has denied your workers’ compensation claim or if your employer is not paying the full benefits that are due under South Carolina law based on the nature and the extent of your injury, you have the right to a hearing. This hearing will be before a commissioner with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. There are seven workers’ compensation commissioners who preside over these cases in South Carolina.
If you do not believe the outcome of the hearing in front of the commissioner is fair, then you have the right to have your case reviewed by a three-member panel of commissioners. Finally, it is possible to appeal to the SC Court of Appeals or even the South Carolina Supreme Court.
For any type of appeal or in any situation where you believe your claim is being unfairly denied or your benefits limited, it is imperative you speak with a South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney. Do understand that most lawyers will decline involvement in a case after the initial hearing has been held because it is difficult to get additional evidence considered after that point. Therefore, if you have a serious work injury, the sooner you can get a lawyer involved, the more likely that you will be able to fully protect your rights.
Contact a SC Workers’ Comp Lawyer to Understand Your Rights
Our South Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at Joye Law Firm can help you understand all the workers’ compensation benefits that could be available. Since 1968, we have helped injured workers like you obtain the money and medical coverage that you are entitled to so you can regain control of your life. One of our workers’ compensation attorneys will work diligently to assist you.