South Carolina Supreme Court Denies Additional Workers’ Compensation for First Injury Due to Settlement of Second Injury to Same Body Part

When someone is hurt at work, he or she has the right to seek workers’ compensation benefits pursuant to South Carolina law. However, there are time limits on the filing of such a claim.

Failing to assert one’s legal rights within the time allowed by law can result in the dismissal of the claim against the responsible party. Unfortunately, this is true even when the plaintiff is badly hurt and when the defendant would otherwise be held liable. It simply cannot be overstated:  time is of the essence in legal matters.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who sought South Carolina workers’ compensation benefits for injuries to his neck arising from a workplace accident that occurred in 2008. The defendants, the man’s employer and its workers’ compensation insurance carrier, admitted that the accident was work-related and provided medical treatment to the plaintiff, including a cervical spine fusion in 2009. An independent medical examiner assigned the plaintiff an impairment rating of 25% to the whole person. In 2010, the plaintiff again injured his neck at work. His treating physician assigned him an impairment rating of 15% to the whole person. In 2011, the plaintiff received a workers’ compensation settlement for the 2010 injury.

In 2013, the plaintiff filed a Form 50, formally seeking compensation for his 2008 work injury. A single commissioner of the workers’ compensation commission found that the plaintiff’s claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The appellate panel of the commission reversed. On remand, the single commissioner again found that the plaintiff’s claim was barred based on the doctrine of laches and that, even if it was not, it was impossible to determine the plaintiff’s entitlement to permanent partial disability benefits because he had multiple intervening accidents that were not related to his employment. The appellate panel affirmed.

Decision of the Court

The South Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed but on different grounds. According to the court, the plaintiff’s case was challenging in that he had sustained multiple injuries to the same part of his body, two of which were work-related and the remainder of which were not. While the court did not find the doctrine of laches to be applicable to the plaintiff’s situation, it pointed out that the plaintiff had received a settlement from the defendant in 2011 for the injury that happened in 2010. Under the circumstances, the plaintiff was not entitled to any additional compensation because the 2010 settlement was based on an impairment rating that reflected the plaintiff’s condition after both of his workplace injuries, even though the rating was lower than the rating he received after the first injury.

Schedule an Appointment with a Knowledgeable South Carolina Injury Attorney

The Patrick E. Knie Law Offices in Spartanburg and Greenville can help you seek maximum benefits under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws. Call us at 864-582-5118 to schedule a consultation. There is no charge for the appointment, and legal fees are not collected unless and until an award of benefits is made on your behalf. As the case discussed above illustrates, it is very important to file your claim in a timely manner, so do not put off hiring an attorney if you have been hurt at work and need help asserting your legal rights.

Related Blog Posts:

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

Appellate Court Agrees With Workers’ Compensation Commission That South Carolina Man Was Employee, Not Independent Contractor

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