Steps to Take After You Suffer an On-The-Job Injury in South Carolina
A workplace accident can occur at any time, on any day, and in any occupation. It is crucial to understand the steps in the South Carolina workers’ compensation process to ensure that if you are injured, you are able to obtain lost wages, medical costs, and any other benefits deemed necessary as a result of an on-the-job injury or illness.
In South Carolina, workers’ comp is “no fault” which means that an injured worker is not required to prove his/her employer was at fault to receive benefits. Instead, the employee need only prove that the injury or illness occurred at or was caused in the workplace or was otherwise work-related.
If you are injured while on the job, there are several steps you must take to ensure that your rights are protected during this process. Because the process can be complicated, experts recommend consulting with a knowledgeable and experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
Report the injury
First and foremost, report your injury to your employer as soon as possible to prevent your employer and/or workers’ compensation insurance carriers from trying to deny your claim. By law, so you don’t lose your right to benefits, you must notify your employer within 90 days. However, you have up to two years to file an actual workers’ compensation claim.
Once you notify your employer, s/he has ten days to report the incident to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC) by completing and submitting Form 12-A/Workers’ Compensation, First Report of Injury or Illness. If the employer fails to report your claim within this time frame, s/he can be fined.
If your employer fails to file a claim with the Commission on your behalf, you, or your attorney, may file your own claim directly with the Commission via Form 50. You can also file a claim if your employer disputes that your illness or injury is work-related or if you believe that you may not be receiving all of the workers’ comp benefits to which you are entitled.
Seek medical care
In South Carolina, the employer chooses an authorized treating physician because the employer and insurance company are only responsible for payment for services based on decisions by an authorized treating physician unless said provider has referred you to other health care providers. If you see your own doctor and are excused from work, your employer can require that you be evaluated by the company’s authorized health care provider.
It is also important that you inform the health care provider the first time you seek medical attention that your injury is work-related. In some cases, employers and workers’ comp insurance carriers may try to deny claims in which the injured worker does not notify a medical provider that the injury occurred at work.
Finally, you may ask the workers’ compensation insurance carrier if you are allowed to visit another doctor. If denied, you can request a hearing.
What about light duty?
If the doctor releases you to light duty, your employer has the option to offer you work within your work restrictions and you must accept the restricted duty assigned. If you do not, your compensation may stop. If you believe that you are unable to perform the light duty assigned, you may request a hearing.
If you return to work at a wage that is less than what you were making at the time of injury, you are entitled to weekly compensation at 66 2/3% of the difference between your new wage and your previous average weekly wage.
What if the doctor says you can’t work?
If you are unable to return to work due to an impairment or disability yet the treating physician has released you from his/her care, you may receive a settlement based on an impairment rating for the body part that was injured. Impairment simply means an effect on a body part; yet, an impairment typically does not affect your ability to earn a living.
If, however, you are left with a disability that hinders your ability to earn a living—and you are released from the treating physician’s care—then you may be eligible for additional benefits due to a permanent disability.
In both of these cases, a State Accident Fund (SAF) representative will request an informal conference with the SCWCC to determine your eligibility for additional disability-related benefits.
Appeals and hearings
Hearings are designed to settle disputes between you and your employer/workers’ comp insurance company. If you have been denied benefits, you, or your attorney, have the right to file a request for a hearing with the Commission where your claim will be heard by one commissioner. If you disagree with this decision, then you can file an appeal that will be heard by a panel of workers’ compensation commissioners.
We can help
Taking the proper steps after an on-the-job injury is critical to ensure that your rights are protected and you get the care you need and the benefits to which you are entitled. If you or a loved one have any questions or require additional information, please contact Venus Poe today at 864.963.0310 or fill out an online case evaluation form. We have offices in Greenville and Fountain Inn, South Carolina to better serve you. Knowing your rights is imperative to ensure you are fully compensated for your injuries and other losses. Also, there is no obligation or charge for our initial consultation to see if we can assist you with your case.
The information you obtain in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should not read this article to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken to you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice in the jurisdiction in which you may have a case.