Many people have a general understanding that workers' compensation provides benefits for on-the-job injuries. But, unless you have been through this process before, you may be asking, "What is workers' compensation?"
Why do we have workers' compensation laws in SC? Is it just to take care of SC workers or is it to protect the employers?
When can you file a workers' compensation claim and what types of injuries does it cover? How much are the benefits? What are your rights under SC's workers' compensation laws?
Although we'll discuss these questions below, your first step after reporting an on-the-job injury is to consult with an experienced Myrtle Beach workers' comp lawyer who will review your case, answer your questions, and help you to get the compensation that you deserve...
What is Workers' Compensation?
Why do we have workers' compensation laws in SC? Is it to protect SC workers and ensure that they are taken care of?
In part, but it is also to protect your employer.
It's a compromise - your employer is required to carry workers' compensation insurance and to follow the workers' compensation laws that guarantee you certain benefits regardless of fault. But, in exchange, your employer is protected from lawsuits by their employees. With few exceptions, you cannot sue your employer for an injury that you suffered while working for them.
They are not required to pay some types of compensation that you would be entitled to if anyone else had caused your injuries, and, no matter how terrible your employer's conduct was, they will not be required to pay punitive damages.
So, what are they required to pay?
How Much Does SC Workers' Compensation Pay?
In most cases, your employer is technically not paying the bill - instead, (if they qualify) they are required to carry workers' compensation insurance and to report your injuries to their insurance company.
You will not be compensated for pain and suffering or any type of "general damages," and you will only receive a percentage of your regular income for disability payments. You can receive compensation for:
- Medical treatment including hospital bills, emergency care, follow-up care, rehabilitation costs, medications, and medical equipment;
- Total disability benefits if you are unable to work for longer than seven days, in the amount of 66 and two-thirds of your regular wage or the "maximum weekly compensation rate" set by the Workers' Compensation Commission, whichever is lower; and
- Partial disability benefits when you can still work but your abilities are limited by your injury, in the amount of 66 and two-thirds of the difference between your regular wage and what you are being paid after the injury.
Although the Commission sets the rates of compensation and limits on your compensation, the amount that you will be paid will depend on the type of injuries you suffered, whether you are partially or totally disabled, and the cost of your medical expenses.
When Can You Get Workers' Compensation in SC?
You are entitled to workers' compensation benefits (if your employer qualifies) when:
- You are injured on the job;
- When the injury happened "during the course and scope of your employment;" and
- You are partially or totally disabled, or you incur medical costs because of your injury.
It doesn't matter who was at fault - whether it was your own fault, a co-worker's fault, or your employer's fault, SC's workers' compensation laws require your employer to cover the costs of your injuries (and prevent you from suing your employer).
Are All Employers Required to Carry Workers' Compensation Insurance?
Not every business is required to carry workers' compensation insurance in SC.
Although there are exceptions, SC businesses that employ four or more employees must carry workers' compensation insurance - including full-time employees, part-time employees, adults, minors, and even seasonal workers.
Exceptions to the workers' compensation insurance requirement in SC include:
- Sole proprietors, partners, and LLC members are not required to cover themselves under their workers' comp policy (although they must still cover their employees if there are more than four);
- Agricultural workers;
- Railroad workers; and
- Some commission-based real estate agents.
There are other exceptions to the workers' compensation law in SC - if you are an employer who is not sure whether you are required to carry workers' compensation insurance, you should consult a Myrtle Beach business attorney who can advise you based on your unique situation.
How do You Apply for Worker's Compensation in SC?
First, you must immediately report the injury to your employer - if you do not report the injury within the 90-day deadline, you may lose your right to workers' compensation benefits.
If you do not immediately report the injury, even if you are within the time limit when you report it, your employer or their insurance company are more likely to deny your claim. We will have the burden of proof to show that your injuries happened while you were on the job, and your employer's insurance company will deny or limit your claim whenever possible...
Once you have reported the injury, your employer has the right to choose what doctor you see. If your employer or their insurance carrier denies your claim or tries to limit your benefits, your Myrtle Beach workers' comp attorney will then file what is called a "Form 50" with the Workers' Compensation Commission.
Unless the claim is settled, we will then have a contested hearing in front of a Commissioner, who will hear the claims, evidence, and medical testimony before making a decision. If the Commissioner denies your claim, we can then appeal their decision to:
- The full Workers' Compensation Commission;
- The Circuit Court in Horry County;
- The SC Court of Appeals; and
- The SC Supreme Court, if necessary.
Do you need an attorney to file your initial claim?
No, although having an experienced workers' comp lawyer on your side from the beginning may help you to get the compensation you deserve without having to appeal through the courts.
Do you need an attorney to file your Form 50 with the Workers' Comp Commission?
There is no doubt that you are more likely to get your claim approved for the maximum amount, avoid the necessity for appeals, and not miss filing deadlines if you have a SC workers' comp lawyer handling your case for you.
Usually, when someone asks me "do I really need a workers' comp attorney," my answer will be, "do you want to get paid?" Attempting to navigate the workers' compensation system in SC without an experienced workers' comp lawyer is a frustrating and often disappointing experience...
Your Myrtle Beach workers' compensation attorney on the Axelrod team will help you to file your claim, gather the evidence you will need to prove your claim, represent you at your workers' comp hearing, and file any necessary appeals.
Call now at (843) 916-9300 or email us to set up a free consultation and review of your case.