Worker's Compensation

What is Workers' Compensation?

Under South Carolina law, some workers who have been injured on their job (where there are four or more employees) may receive medical care and financial compensation without having to prove the employer was at fault in the accident. In fact, if the workers' compensation laws apply under the circumstances, then these laws are the worker's only remedy, and the employee cannot sue an employer for injuries received on the job.

What types of accidents or injuries are covered by the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Act (Title 42 of the South Carolina Code of Laws)?

The statutes of this act cover workers who have been injured while working "within the scope" of their employment. For example, any injury suffered by an employee at the employer's place of business during working hours would be covered, but an injury that is sustained while traveling to or from work usually would not be covered (except, for example, in such cases in which the employee is injured when the employer provides transportation to a work site).

The workers' compensation laws cover physical and emotional problems caused by work-related stress, accidents (such as injuries sustained while operating machinery), injuries caused by normal work activities (such as back injuries from lifting), and repetitive motion injuries (such as carpal tunnel syndrome). Sometimes, however, the employer may not be responsible for the employee's injuries if such injuries were caused by voluntary intoxication, or by failure to use prescribed safety equipment.

What kind of benefits can I get for my injuries?

Regarding your medical expenses for a job-related injury, they can all be paid by workers' compensation regardless of whether you miss any work or not. However, your employer has the right to choose which doctor treats you. If you refuse to accept the treatment provided by such doctor, then you lose the right to compensation. If you wish to see your own doctor, then you must pay the costs.

If you miss work, you may be paid two-thirds of your average wages/salary (not to exceed a maximum weekly amount that is set by the Workers' Compensation Commission) for the time missed, excluding the first seven days you cannot work (unless you miss work for more than 14 days, in which case you may be paid for the first seven days) for a maximum of 500 weeks, except for injuries resulting in brain damage or injuries that cause the worker to be a paraplegic or a quadriplegic for which benefits are paid for a lifetime. These benefits are nontaxable.

If you return to "light duty," or work part-time while you are recovering from your injuries, and you are being paid less than what you normally received before the accident, then you may be entitled to compensation for two-thirds of the difference between your normal wages/salary and your part-time or light-duty pay until you reach maximum medical improvement. Even if you can work, you may receive payment for certain parts of your body that are permanently injured.

What steps should I take if I've been hurt on the job?

You should immediately report your injury to a supervisor (you have a total of 90 days within which to make your report). In doing so, you should make record of the following:
--- The time, place, scope, and circumstances of your injury
--- The names of witnesses

In most cases, to receive benefits, you must file your claim with the Workers' Compensation Commission within two years of the date of your injury. The claim is assigned to a workers' compensation commission that holds a hearing to determine, among other things:
--- If your claim is valid
--- If you are entitled to benefits
--- If temporary benefits should be stopped
--- If you are ready to return to work
--- If you are entitled to an award for any permanent disability

If you have any questions concerning our services, or if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please contact Attorney Starkes by phone or via email. In the Columbia area call (803) 758-2882 or outside Columbia call toll free at (866) 605-7800.

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