South Carolina Court of Appeals Says Workers’ Compensation Appellate Panel Should Have Made More Detailed Findings On Issue of Whether Alleged “Dependent” Was Entitled to Death Benefits

Usually, the claimant in a South Carolina workers’ compensation case is a worker who was injured on the job. The “injury” may be a result of an accident, repetitive or cumulative trauma, or even a work-related illness.

When a worker dies as a result of an accident for which he or she would otherwise be entitled to collect workers’ compensation benefits, his or her surviving spouse and dependents – as those terms are specifically defined under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation statutes – may be entitled to death benefits.

Facts of the Case

In a recent (unreported) case, the appellant was a man who sought death benefits following the apparently work-related death of his alleged wife. The appellate panel of the South Carolina workers’ compensation commission denied the appellant’s claim and, instead, awarded death benefits to three other individuals. The appellant sought further review, arguing that the panel had erred in finding that he did not qualify as a “surviving spouse” under South Carolina Code § 42-9-110 and that he did not qualify as “otherwise dependent” under South Carolina Code § 42-9-120.

Holding in the Case

The South Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case to the tribunal for further consideration. According to the court, there was substantial evidence to support the appellate panel’s finding that the appellant did not qualify as a “surviving spouse” of the deceased worker under the relevant South Carolina laws. In so holding, the court noted that the term “surviving spouse” included only a spouse who was living with the decedent at the time of his or her death, a spouse who was dependent upon the decedent for support, or a spouse who was living apart from the decedent for a justifiable reason (including desertion by the decedent).

The court went on to find that the appellate panel had failed to make sufficiently detailed factual findings on the issue of whether the appellant was a “dependent” under § 42-9-120, such that the reviewing court could not determine whether the evidence supported the panel’s finding that the appellant was not the deceased worker’s dependent. On remand, the panel was ordered to make specific factual findings on this issue.

Talk to a South Carolina Work Injury Lawyer

Claims for workers’ compensation following an injury at work or a loved one’s death in a work-related accident should be simple and easy, but, more often than not, the employer or the insurance company puts up a fight, making it difficult for the injured person or his or her family to recover what is due. At the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices in Spartanburg and Greenville, we handle workers’ compensation cases on a regular basis. If you need help with your work injury case, we’re here for you. Just call us at 864-582-5118, and we’ll be happy to set up a free consultation so that you can learn more about your legal rights.

Related Blog Posts:

Worker Was Entitled to Presumption of Total Disability, According to South Carolina Supreme Court

South Carolina Appeals Court Holds that No Sanctions Were Warranted Against Employer in Workers’ Compensation Case


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