Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

A difference of just 2% might not sound like much, but it can make a huge difference in deciding how much an injured worker will receive under South Carolina’s scheduled-member workers’ compensation statute.

This is because a worker who has suffered 50% of more loss of use of his or her back due to an on-the-job injury is presumed to be totally disabled, while a worker with only 48% loss of use of his or her back is presumed to be only partially disabled.

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When an employee is hurt at work, he or she is usually limited to benefits available under the workers’ compensation laws. Such benefits typically include past and future medical care, temporary disability, or permanent disability payments. Under the “exclusive remedy doctrine,” the employee cannot file a traditional negligence lawsuit against his or her employer.

However, when a worker is hurt due to a third party’s negligent conduct, he or she has the option of proceeding in tort against the responsible party. (The employee may be required to repay amounts received from workers’ compensation if the third-party claim is successful.)  Such cases can be complex, especially if the employer also contributed to the cause of the accident. A recent case is illustrative.

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Many issues can arise in a typical workers’ compensation case – disputes concerning the nature and extent of the employee’s injuries, whether the employee is able to return to work following an injury, and the amount of compensation to which the employee is entitled if he or she suffers from a permanent partial disability are all commonplace.

In a recent case that already reached the state supreme court once before (in 2015), the issue was the amount of weekly benefits to which the employee was entitled, based on her income at the time of her injury. Continue Reading ›

When an employee is hurt on the job, and a permanent injury results, he or she is usually assigned an “impairment rating” under the American Medical Association’s Guides to Permanent Physical Impairment.

The workers’ compensation commission – and the court, if the matter proceeds further through an appeal – uses the rating and other factors in determining the amount of permanent partial disability benefits to which an employee is entitled.

The Guides can also be used to establish an employee’s permanent total disability for the purposes of workers’ compensation law.

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Under South Carolina law, a person who is injured in the course and scope of his or her employment may file a claim seeking workers’ compensation benefits, such as temporary disability benefits, permanent disability benefits, and medical benefits.

If a claim is denied by the employer’s insurance company, the injured worker may request a hearing before a workers’ compensation commissioner. If he or she is dissatisfied with the commissioner’s decision, an appeal may be taken to an appellate panel of the full commission.

Further appeals, including proceedings in the court system, are also possible.

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Under South Carolina workers’ compensation law, employees who are injured in the course of their employment are entitled to certain benefits, such as the payment of medical expenses and disability payments.

While workers’ compensation cases are supposed to be less contentious than tort cases alleging negligence, they are not always easy. Just as with defendants in other personal injury cases, employers and insurance companies will look for a way to avoid responsibility, if at all possible.

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The appellate process is designed to provide efficient and meaningful review of the decisions of lower courts and administrative tribunals. Of course, even when things run smoothly, an appeal can lengthen the time that it takes to resolve a dispute.

When an appeal does not follow the usual course, however, it can take even longer for an injured person, including an employee seeking workers’ compensation benefits, to receive what he or she is owed.

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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.

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Most workers in South Carolina are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured in an accident arising out of and in the course of their employment. These benefits include not only necessary medical treatment but also partial reimbursement for lost wages while a worker is temporarily unable to work and compensation for permanent disability or disfigurement.

Although it is generally easier for a worker to recover benefits through the current workers’ compensation system than under the negligence system that preceded it, the burden of proof is still on the employee to show that he or she was hurt on the job and is entitled to payments for a temporary or permanent disability.

If an employee is unable to show that he is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, his claim will be denied by the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission.

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When an employee dies as a result of a work-related injury, his or her dependents are entitled to receive compensation in most cases. However, if an employee who is injured on the job dies from unrelated causes while his or her case is pending, the situation can be much more complex.

A South Carolina appellate court was recently asked to review the issues in such a case, the employee having died from causes unrelated to a very serious on-the-job injury he had suffered prior to his death.

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