South Carolina Court of Appeals Affirms Denial of Permanent Total Disability in Workers’ Compensation Case

In a South Carolina workers’ compensation case, the burden is on the injured worker to prove that he or she was injured or became ill due to his or her employment. Once this has been accomplished, the obligation then shifts to the employer to provide the benefits to which the plaintiff is entitled under the law.

Depending upon the situation, this may include temporary partial disability benefits, temporary total disability benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, and/or permanent total disability benefits. In most cases, the employer must also provide medical care to the injured worker at its own expense (or that of its workers’ compensation insurance carrier).

When the parties cannot agree on the benefits to which a particular worker is entitled, the state workers’ compensation commission and, if necessary, the courts, will make an adjudication.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unreported case, the plaintiff was a man who suffered a work-related injury to his back while working for the defendant employer in July 2012. The defendant admitted that the injury was suffered during the course and scope of the plaintiff’s employment, but it disagreed as to the amount of workers’ compensation benefits to which the plaintiff was entitled.

The appellate panel of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission determined that the plaintiff was not permanently and totally disabled, nor was he entitled to a lump sum payment of benefits. The plaintiff appealed.

The Court’s Decision

The South Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the appellate panel’s determination that the plaintiff was not permanently totally disabled, holding that the panel’s decision was supported by substantial evidence in the record. In so holding, the court noted that, only when there has been an error of law or in situations in which a lower tribunal’s ruling was clearly erroneous, may the appellate court reverse or modify a decision of the workers’ compensation appellate panel.

Although the plaintiff argued that the appellate panel had “incorrectly relied” upon his refusal to have certain medical treatment (namely, a spinal cord stimulator), the appeals court found that the appellate panel had considered all of the plaintiff’s medical records (not just his refusal of the stimulator), as well as the deposition testimony of his treating physician and a vocational report regarding his functional capacity evaluation. While some of the evidence was conflicting, the court found that there was substantial evidence to support the appellate panel’s opinion that the plaintiff had the physical capacity to return to some type of employment after his work-related injury.

Contact an Experienced South Carolina Work Injury Lawyer

Having effective legal representation is important when it comes to seeking the benefits to which one is entitled under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws. If you or a family member has sustained an on-the-job injury and want to know about your legal rights, please call the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices and ask for a free consultation with a member of our experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation legal team. We have offices in Spartanburg and Greenville, and we serve clients throughout the state.

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