South Carolina Supreme Court Says Notice Issue in a Workers’ Compensation Appeal Should Be Reviewed Under “Substantial Evidence” Standard

If you have been hurt in a work-related accident, you may be putting off the formal filing of your South Carolina workers’ compensation claim, hoping your employer will “do the right thing” or that your injury will improve on its own. It is very important that you take action to protect your legal rights sooner, rather than later, since the process of pursuing a work injury claim can sometimes be very difficult and time-consuming, and failing to take timely action can even result in a complete bar to recovery in some cases.

Unfortunately, it is not unusual for an employer to deny a workers’ compensation claim on the grounds that the employee was not hurt in the course and scope of his or her employment, that an injury was pre-existing, or that the employee did not give timely notice of his or her injury.

As a recent case illustrates, there are many potential steps to receiving workers’ compensation benefits when an employer resists paying a claim. The sooner the injured worker files his or her claim, the sooner his or her attorney can get to work on holding the employer accountable for what is owed.

Facts of the Case

In this case, the plaintiff was a man who hurt his back and shoulder at work. He filed a workers’ compensation claim, and a single commissioner awarded him benefits. The defendant employer asked for an appeal. The appellate division of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission then reversed the single commissioner’s decision on the ground that the defendant had failed to provide timely notice as required by South Carolina Code § 42-15-20.

The plaintiff sought review from the South Carolina Court of Appeals. That court reversed the commission’s decision, applying a “de novo” standard of review. The employer sought further review.

The Court’s Decision

The South Carolina Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the court of appeals had committed a reversible error in applying a de novo standard of review. According to the Supreme Court, the lower tribunal mistakenly relied on dicta from another case when it applied the standard to a jurisdictional question. In so holding, the court pointed out that, in previous decisions, the court of appeals had (correctly) applied the “substantial evidence” standard when reviewing cases from the commission in which timely notice was an issue.

According to the Supreme Court, it was well-settled South Carolina law that the Commission’s determination of whether a claimant gave timely notice under §42-15-20 was not a jurisdictional determination and was to be reviewed on appeal under the substantial evidence standard. On remand, the court of appeals was instructed to reconsider the case and issue a decision under the proper standard of review.

Speak to a South Carolina Injury Attorney

Workers’ compensation cases can be much more difficult than they should be. If you have been hurt on the job, it pays to talk to an attorney about the issues in your case as soon as possible. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney, call the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices at 864-582-5118 to schedule an appointment in our Spartanburg or Greenville offices. Workers’ compensation cases are accepted on a contingency fee contract, so no attorney fees are collected upfront.

Related Blog Posts:

South Carolina Uninsured Employers Fund Held Liable for Work Injury Due to Employer’s Fraud to Workers’ Compensation Carrier

South Carolina Court of Appeals Holds that Employer Had Notice of Workers’ Compensation Claim After Employee Fainted After Challenging Physical Work

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