Being injured on the job can be scary and upsetting. This is especially true if the injury suffered is serious enough to prevent the worker from returning to the job, resulting in medical bills and lost wages. Knowing what to expect after an on-the-job injury can give you some actionable steps and peace of mind. In this post, we’ll take a look at how South Carolina workers’ compensation settlements work.
At the Marc Brown Law Firm, our South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer can represent you if you have been injured on the job. Contact us today to request a free consultation.
Types of Compensation Available in a Workers’ Compensation Settlement
The first thing you should familiarize yourself with if you are pursuing workers’ compensation benefits is the types of benefits that are available. Under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation law, benefits include the following:
- Medical expenses. A worker who is involved in a workplace accident is entitled to the full extent of medical care that they need. All medical expenses that are reasonable and necessary should be covered under workers’ compensation insurance, including surgeries, hospital stays, doctors’ visits, prescription medications, rehabilitation, and more.
- Temporary total compensation for lost time. If a worker is unable to work due to a workplace injury or an occupational illness, then they are eligible for payment to compensate them for lost wages if they miss work for more than seven days. If they cannot return to work for at least 14 days, then they will also be eligible for compensation for the first seven days.
- Permanent disability benefits. In some cases, a worker is involved in an accident that’s so severe that they suffer a permanent disability. Compensation is available in the form of permanent partial disability benefits and permanent total disability benefits. Partial disability benefits are offered when the employee is able to perform some type of work, but cannot perform the same type of work that they did prior to the accident. Permanent disability benefits, on the other hand, are for those workers who have been in workplace accidents that resulted in the loss of both hands, feet, arms, legs, vision in both eyes, or a combination of these losses.
Note that the above benefit types are paid on a case-by-case basis—while all workers who require medical care are eligible for medical benefits through workers’ compensation, only those who meet certain criteria will qualify for wage replacement benefits or permanent disability benefits.
How Is a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Settlement Calculated?
How each benefit type is calculated varies. Again, medical benefits are paid in full—you should not have to pay for any of your medical expenses out of pocket.
Calculating temporary total compensation benefits (wage replacement benefits) and permanent disability benefits is slightly more complicated, though. Let’s take a closer look.
Compensation For Lost Wages
Remember, you are only eligible for compensation for lost wages if your injury prevents you from returning to work for at least seven days; if you miss work for 14 days or more, you can be compensated for the first seven days that you missed work, too. Compensation for lost wages is based on the amount of money that you were earning prior to your accident. The rate at which payment will be offered is 66 ⅔ percent of your average weekly wage prior to the injury. However, the weekly amount that you receive cannot exceed the maximum limit set forth by the state. For the year 2020, South Carolina’s maximum weekly compensation rate in a workers’ compensation case is $866.67.
Compensation For Permanent Disability
South Carolina Code of Laws Section 42-9-30 outlines how certain disabilities are to be compensated. Specifically, the amount of compensation that is paid and the duration for which payments will be made is based on the type of body part that has been lost/rendered totally disabled. For example, the loss of a thumb is compensated at 66 ⅔ percent of the worker’s average weekly wage prior to the injury for a total of 65 weeks. However, the loss of an eye will result in compensation of 66 ⅔ percent of the worker’s average weekly wage prior to the accident for a total of 140 weeks.
One of the complications with calculating based on “average weekly wage” is that this calculation often fails to account for items like overtime wages, bonuses, and wages from multiple jobs. Our lawyers will work to make sure that these are accounted for when your workers’ compensation settlement is calculated.
Settlement Negotiations: What Happens If You Can’t Reach a Settlement?
It is critical that you understand that you are under no obligation whatsoever to accept the first settlement that you are offered by a workers’ compensation insurer. In fact, it is usually within your best interests to deny a first settlement offer and negotiate for a greater compensation award.
Negotiations may go back and forth for weeks or even months. We strongly recommend working with a skilled workers’ compensation attorney who has experience negotiating claims like yours.
The goal is to settle your case out of court—this will save you time and money and is typically less contentious and stressful. However, if you are not offered a settlement that you deserve, your employer/insurer refuses to negotiate, or if your claim is denied altogether, you can request a hearing before the Workers’ Compensation Commission, and the commissioner will rule on the case. If you disagree with the commissioner’s decision, you maintain the right to file an appeal.
Get Legal Help Today
Now that you know how South Carolina workers’ compensation settlements work, our experienced legal team at Marc Brown Law Firm is ready to assist you. If you have been injured at work, we want to help you recover the settlement that you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation, and learn more about the workers’ compensation settlement process, your rights, and how working with a lawyer may improve the outcome of your case.