There was a time when an employee had to make out a case of negligence if he or she sought monetary compensation following an accidental injury at work. Nowadays, however, there is a workers’ compensation program in place that does not require proof of negligence or fault against the employer. However, the benefits that the worker receives are typically less than what would have been possible in a successful negligence action.
Even in this supposedly stream-lined process, many disputes still occur, and a significant number of workers’ compensation cases find their way into the appellate courts each year.
Facts of the Case
In a recent unreported South Carolina workers’ compensation case, the plaintiff was a man who alleged that he had been hurt during the course and scope of his employment with the defendant employer. The employer and its workers’ compensation insurance carrier disputed the plaintiff’s claim. A single administrative law judge of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission found that the plaintiff’s alleged clavicle injury was not compensable. Rather, the appellate panel found that the plaintiff’s injury was limited to his right shoulder and also ruled that he was prohibited from raising the issue of temporary partial disability on remand. The plaintiff appealed.
The Court’s Ruling
The South Carolina Court of Appeals vacated the lower tribunal’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. According the court of appeals, the findings of fact and conclusions of law reached by the workers’ compensation commission were not sufficiently detailed to allow proper appellate review of the plaintiff’s claim. The lower tribunal’s order stated that there was not a separate impairment rating to the plaintiff’s upper extremity, but it did not set forth the underlying facts necessary to support this conclusion. In so observing, the court noted that, when material facts are disputed, the appellate panel is supposed to make specific, express findings of fact.
The plaintiff had presented evidence that he had also injured his arm and clavicle, not just his shoulder. Because the issue of whether the plaintiff’s alleged disability was only to his shoulder rather than to an upper extremity impacted the defendant’s ultimate liability in the case, a remand was necessary.
The court of appeals also opined that the appellate panel had been in error in prohibiting the plaintiff from raising the issue of temporary total disability on remand, holding that this issue did not have to be raised during the plaintiff’s interlocutory appeal in order to be preserved.
Speak to a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
The law is supposed to be designed in a manner that allows those who are hurt at work to obtain the medical treatment and benefits to which they are entitled in a simplified, expedited fashion. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In fact, the “easy” cases tend to be the exception rather than the rule. If you need help pursuing a claim against your employer following a work-related injury or illness, please call the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices at 864-582-5118 and set up a free consultation with an experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney.
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