Timeliness is important in any injury case, be it a negligence action or a work injury case. In addition to the statute of limitations for filing a claim in a court of law, there may be a requirement to give formal notice in some situations.
For instance, giving notice of a work-related injury is critically important to success in a workers’ compensation case. Ideally, this notice should be in writing. As a recent case illustrates, verbal notice alone can result in numerous issues that can jeopardize a claimant’s case.
Facts of the Case
In the recently decided case of Hartzell v. Palmetto Collision, LLC, the plaintiff was a 50-year-old auto body paint technician who filed a workers’ compensation claim as a result of a back injury that he allegedly suffered on the job in 2009. A single commissioner of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission found that the plaintiff was entitled to medical, surgical, and other authorized treatment for his work-related injury. An appellate panel of the Commission affirmed the single commissioner’s order.
In a 2013 order, the South Carolina Court of Appeals reversed the Commission’s decision on the ground that the plaintiff had failed to provide timely notice of his injury. The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s ruling, deciding that the plaintiff’s verbal notice that he was “pretty sore” and “must have hurt himself” (on the previous day) was substantial evidence supporting the Commission’s determination that the plaintiff provided timely notice.
The Supreme Court then remanded the case to the court of appeals to consider the employer’s remaining assignments of error.
Decision of the South Carolina Court of Appeals
The employer argued that the Commission had erred in failing to provide a conclusion of law to satisfy South Carolina Code § 42-1-160 and vaguely finding that the plaintiff sustained an injury to his back. The employer also alleged that the Commission’s award of medical treatment to the plaintiff was in contravention of the Code.
Upon consideration of the issues, the appeals court affirmed in part and reversed in part. As to the first issue asserted by the employer, the court found that the Commission had been correct in determining that the plaintiff had, in fact, suffered an injury to his back while in the course of his employment and that this injury was compensable under the workers’ compensation laws.
As to the second issue, however, the court found that, since more than 10 weeks had elapsed since the plaintiff’s injury, and the Commission did not support its decision with expert medical evidence, it was an error for the Commission to award medical benefits to the plaintiff.
Get Reliable Advice About Your South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Case
If you have been hurt on the job, you should know that there are many rules, procedural hurdles, and time limits pertaining to the filing and litigation of a workers’ compensation claim. To talk to an experienced work injury attorney, call the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices at (864) 582-5118 and ask for a free consultation. We handle injury cases throughout the state, including in Spartanburg, Greenville, and the surrounding areas.
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