A Mount Pleasant Injury Attorney Answers Your Workers’ Comp Questions
We have heard a lot of questions about filing for workers’ compensation over the years, so we have compiled the answers to the most common questions here. Browse or search through our FAQ for facts on the South Carolina workers’ compensation system and what to do if your claim is denied.
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Can my employer fire me for filing a workers’ compensation claim?
No. An employer cannot fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Although South Carolina is known as an “at will” employment state (meaning that an employer can fire an employee for just cause), there are limited exceptions that prevent an employer for firing an employee for certain grounds. If you can prove you were fired specifically for filing a workers’ compensation claim, you have an employment retaliation claim against your employer.
Is a workers’ compensation claim the same as suing my employer?
No, filing a worker’s compensation claim is not the same as filing a lawsuit against your employer. In fact, South Carolina laws prevents an employee from filing a lawsuit against their employer and, thus, the workers’ compensation administrative system was developed to help employees who have been injured at work. Essentially, a workers’ compensation claim is an administrative claim against your employer’s insurance provider to insure you are receiving the appropriate medical and financial benefits you are entitled to. Your employer will not be held personally liable for anything surrounding your work related injury.
What types of benefits are you entitled to in a workers’ compensation claim?
The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act codified in S.C. Code Ann. § provides for several different types of benefits depending on the claimant’s injury, medical status and work status:
- Medical Benefits:
- Temporary Partial Disability (TPD): Temporary partial disability benefits are the least used and most employees are even unaware that these type of benefits exist. An employee is entitled to temporary partial disability when the employee is capable of working, but may have to return to work under restrictions that would result in her earning lower wages than she was prior to the injury. For example, if your work related injury limits the amount of hours you may be able to work or perhaps your injury restricts you from performing your current tasks and you are reassigned to a new position that pays less than you were making prior to your work injury, you may be entitled to benefits for the difference between what you were making prior to your injury and what you are able to earn after your injury. Under South Carolina law, you are entitled to temporary partial disability benefits equal to two-thirds the difference between your pre-injury wages and your post-injury wages. For example, if you were making $1,000 per week prior to your work injury and you are only able to make $500 after your work injury, the difference in your wages would be $500 per week and you would be entitled to two-thirds this amount.
- Temporary Total Disability (TTD): If an employee is completely unable to work due to your work injury, you will begin to receive temporary total disability benefits in lieu of your normal salary once you have been out of work for seven or more days. These benefits are equal two-thirds of your average weekly wage. You will continue to receive these benefits until your doctor determines that you have reached maximum medical improvement. If you have continued to receive temporary total disability for one-hundred and fifty days, your employer cannot terminate your benefits without requesting a hearing with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. However, you cannot receive temporary total disability benefits for more than five-hundred weeks.
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD): In certain types of serious injuries, you may be permanently prevented from returning to the job you were doing prior to your injury. In situations where you are able to return to work, but in a different capacity, your earning potential may be permanently restricted. For example, if you were performing some type of labor-intensive work prior to your injury but you are only able to perform deskwork after your injury, and your income is lower as a result of your job change, you may be entitled to receive permanent partial disability benefits for the difference in your wages. Most insurance companies will not voluntarily offer an employee permanent partial disability, thus, it is important that you get with an experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney who can get you to the appropriate medical and vocational experts who can give opinions on your work status.
- Scheduled Member Disability: The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act sets for compensation based on a specific number of weeks for certain body parts. Your benefits are based on a formula that takes into account your average weekly wage, the body part that is injured and your impairment rating to the injured body part based on the physician’s opinion. In many circumstances, it is helpful to get a second medical opinion to assure you are receiving an appropriate impairment rating from your doctor.
- Total and Permanent Disability: If your injuries completely prevent you from returning to work, you may be entitled to total and permanent disability benefits. To determine whether you are deemed totally and permanently disabled, you will likely need to be evaluated by a vocational expert who will take into consideration your age, work experience, educational background, the nature of your injury and physical restrictions. Generally, the amount of benefits for total and permanent disability is equal to five-hundred weeks of your average weekly wage; however, you may be entitled to lifetime benefits if have suffered a brain injury or have become a paraplegic or quadriplegic.
- Death Benefits: If someone suffers a death do to a work related injury, those persons who are determined to be “wholly dependent” on the deceased may be entitled to compensation of five-hundred weeks of benefits plus certain burial expenses. The issue of determining who exactly is entitled to what benefits, if anyone, can be very complicated.
What should you do if you’ve been injured on the job?
First and foremost, if you have been hurt at work, you need to notify your employer or supervisor as soon as possible. The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, pursuant to S. C. Code Ann. § 14-15-20, states that “[e]very injured employee or his representative shall immediately on the occurrence of an accident, or as soon thereafter as practicable, give or cause to be given to the employer a notice of the accident.” The statute goes on to state that an employee will not be entitled to benefits under the act unless the employer had knowledge of the accident within ninety (90) days thereafter, unless reasonable excuse can be found. In summary, South Carolina Courts have generally denied compensation to employees who failed to give notice to their employer within ninety (90) days of the accident.