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
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.