Workers' Compensation FAQ

Get Answers from Our Columbia Personal Injury Attorney

We understand that you may have questions regarding your Workers’ Compensation rights. Here are the answers to some of the most common questions:

What is Workers' Compensation and how does it work in SC?
Workers’ Compensation is a legal system for providing medical benefits and compensation to employees who are injured on the job. Most employees are automatically covered, and it provides benefits for work related injuries regardless of fault. Here are some examples of covered injuries:

  • A company truck driver falls off of a trailer while securing a load
  • A warehouse worker is hit in the head by a falling box
  • A retail worker slips on a wet floor
  • An office worker trips over a file cabinet

Do I have rights to sue my job for the injury? What if my employer was negligent?
In South Carolina it is considered an injured employee’s “sole remedy” for on the job injuries, meaning that it applies instead of having to go to court. As a result an employee can no longer sue their employer as long as Workers’ Compensation applies. This is true whether or not the employer was negligent.

Do I get paid for the time I can't go to work because of the injury?
Yes. After a brief waiting period you are entitled to be paid what are called temporary total disability benefits for time you are unable to work. These benefits are normally capped at 2/3rd of your average weekly wage. In addition to being paid, you are also entitled to mileage for trips to and from the doctor’s office.

Do I have any other legal rights if my job terminates me because of the injury?
Workers’ Compensation benefits are actually paid for by an insurance company hired by your employer. That means that your employer doesn’t directly pay for your medical bills, temporary total disability, or other amounts. Most employers, even small ones, do not retaliate against employees who choose to exercise their rights to these benefits (in fact many good employers want to see their employees get the benefits that they have paid for). But in the unfortunate event that an employer chooses to fire an employee for submitting a Workers’ Compensation claim there may be rights to file an additional claim in court for retaliatory discharge.

Can I go to my own independent doctor after the injury, or must I go where my job sends me?
Your employer (or rather their insurance company) has the right to select the doctor you see for medical treatments. Many times they will pick a good doctor who will try to help you. Sometimes though the doctor they pick isn’t the right kind of doctor, or may not seem to actually be trying to help you. If that happens then there are procedures available under the Workers’ Compensation law to try to have the doctor changed to someone who is a better fit.

How do I know what my case is worth?
After you complete all of your medical treatments you will be at a point called Maximum Medical Improvement. At that point you are entitled to be paid for any permanent injury that remains. The exact amount will depend on several factors, but here are the most important:

  • What were your pre-injury earnings?
  • What body part or parts have permanent injury?
  • What impairment level have the doctor’s assigned?

In Workers’ Compensation law every body part is assigned a certain maximum benefit award, specified in a number of weeks of compensation. Fingers, toes, shoulders, backs, ears, even tongues are all listed. The exact amount of settlement that you may be entitled to will depend on these factors, along with whether or not there is any possible need for future or ongoing medical expenses.

Impairment level is a percentage determined by a doctor by applying a guidebook called the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. Our office has a copy of this book, and we use it to “double check” the doctor’s opinion to make sure that it is a fair.

Will my attorney settle without my knowledge or consent?
No. A lawyer can never settle a Workers’ Compensation case without the client’s specific, written consent.

When is the right time to go see a lawyer?
Many times appropriate Workers’ Compensation benefits can be obtained without involving a lawyer. But it would be a good idea for you to reach out for a consultation immediately if one of the following does apply:

  • Your claim is completely denied by the insurance company or employer (they refuse to provide any benefits).
  • Your injury is serious and life-altering (brain injury, disabling, death), or is sufficient to make returning to previous work difficult or impossible.
  • If orthopedic surgery was required (meaning a surgeon operated on a back or major joint).
  • If “hardware” was required (such as pins to hold a broken arm or leg in place were required)
  • There was a significant scar as a result of the injury (such as facial lacerations, or other scarring visible during normal work conditions).

It won’t cost you anything to meet with us to see if we can help. Initial appointments are also confidential, meaning that your employer will never know that you have consulted with an attorney if you choose not to retain them.

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