South Carolina Court Rules That Unpaid Student Intern’s Average Weekly Wage Was Calculated Incorrectly by Workers’ Compensation Commission

When someone is hurt at work and files a South Carolina workers’ compensation claim, one of the issues that must be determined is the claimant’s average weekly wage. Usually, this is fairly simple: just add up the worker’s earnings for the past year and divide that number by 52.

Of course, sometimes a worker has not been employed at a particular place long enough for there to be a meaningful accumulation of wage data (in which case a similarly situated worker’s earnings may possibly be used). Other issues can also arise, as was demonstrated in a case in which a worker held two jobs – one paid and one unpaid – and was hurt on the unpaid job.

Facts of the Case

In a recent (unreported) case from the South Carolina Court of Appeals, the plaintiff was a graduate student who worked both as an unpaid intern at a university hospital and as a regular employee at a fast food restaurant. He was hurt during his work as an intern and filed a workers’ compensation claim against the university’s accident fund.

A single commissioner determined that the plaintiff’s average weekly wage should be calculated using his combined wages from his work as an intern and as a fast food worker. The appellate panel of the state workers’ compensation commission affirmed the single commissioner’s decision. The fund appealed.

The Decision of the Appellate Court

The court of appeals reversed and remanded, holding that the single commissioner and the appellate panel had been wrong in their determination of the plaintiff’s average weekly wage. On remand, the commission was instructed to calculate the plaintiff’s average weekly wage in compliance with South Carolina Code § 42-7-65.

The statute referenced by the court generally pertains to the calculation of the average weekly wage in cases involving those in the State and National Guard, as well as voluntary firemen, those in organized volunteer rescue squads, volunteer deputy sheriffs, and volunteer state constables. However, it also includes a small provision for students of state-supported colleges and universities: such individuals’ average weekly wage is to be calculated based on 50% of the average weekly wage in the state for the preceding fiscal year.

Speak to a Knowledgeable South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you have been hurt at work, you should talk to an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer about your case. Deadlines are common in the law when it comes to claims filed by those who are injured at work or due to others’ negligence elsewhere. When proper notice of a work injury is not given, it can be extremely difficult for an injured worker to assert his or her legal rights later on. For an appointment to discuss your case, call the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices at 864-582-5118. We have offices in both Spartanburg and Greenville, and we offer a free, completely confidential case evaluation.

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