If you are injured on the job or suffer an occupational illness, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits – but what are the different types of workers’ compensation benefits in SC?
Depending on the nature of your injuries, whether the injuries’ effects are temporary or permanent, and the treatment that is required, the types of workers’ compensation benefits that you may be entitled to receive include:
- Medical benefits,
- Temporary disability benefits,
- Permanent disability benefits,
- Rehabilitation benefits, and
- Death benefits.
One type of workers’ compensation benefit that applies in most cases is the reimbursement of medical expenses related to the injury.
Workers’ compensation should pay your reasonable medical expenses related to your on-the-job injury, including:
- Hospital expenses,
- Doctor’s bills,
- Emergency care,
- Lab work and necessary tests,
- Physical rehabilitation,
- Medical equipment,
- Long-term care,
- Future medical expenses, and
- Other reasonable medical expenses that are necessary for your care and treatment.
Disability benefits in SC provide wage-replacement income for workers who are temporarily or permanently unable to work due to their injuries, including:
- Temporary partial disability benefits,
- Temporary total disability benefits,
- Permanent partial disability benefits, and
- Permanent total disability benefits.
Temporary Total Disability Benefits
When your injury or occupational illness prevents you from returning to work immediately, you should receive temporary wage-replacement benefits that pay two-thirds of your average weekly wage up to a maximum of $963.37 per week (for 2022 – the maximum benefits allowed may change from year to year).
These temporary benefits should continue until 1) you have recovered from your injuries and your doctor clears you to return to work or 2) you have reached maximum medical improvement, when you may be eligible to receive permanent disability benefits depending on your disability and impairment rating.
Temporary Partial Disability Benefits
Another type of workers’ compensation benefit is temporary partial disability benefits.
If your doctor clears you to return to work, but you must return to “light duty” or “modified duty” and will receive a reduction in pay because of the change, you are still entitled to receive benefits equal to two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury paycheck and the reduced wages you are now receiving.
In most cases where a doctor releases you to return to work on a limited basis, you will be required to return to work if your employer offers a light-duty assignment that complies with your medical restrictions.
Permanent Total Disability Benefits
If you suffer a total and permanent disability as the result of your on-the-job injury, defined in SC Code Section 42-9-10 as “the loss of both hands, arms, shoulders, feet, legs, hip, or vision in both eyes, or any two thereof,” you should receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage in permanent total disability benefits.
The length of time permanent benefits are paid (or the total amount of your final settlement) is capped by SC Code Section 42-9-30 based on the body part that was affected, ranging from ten weeks for the loss of a toe to 500 weeks for the most serious injuries.
For extreme injuries that result in quadriplegia, paraplegia, or brain damage, this type of workers’ compensation benefit may result in lifetime benefits that are not subject to § 42-9-30’s cap, and the worker is not permitted to negotiate a lump-sum settlement in place of the payment of lifetime benefits.
Permanent Partial Disability Benefits
Once an injured worker has reached maximum medical improvement, they will be assigned an “impairment rating” that estimates their ability to use the affected body part and a “disability rating” that estimates their ability to perform their job taking into consideration the injuries suffered.
This then translates into a percentage of the worker’s average weekly wage that will be paid as permanent partial disability benefits, limited by the caps found in § 42-9-30.
Another type of workers’ compensation benefit in SC is compensation for rehabilitation, which may include physical rehabilitation that enables a worker to return to their pre-injury employment, job training that would allow the worker to find new employment, or job-placement services.
A deceased employee’s dependents may also be entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits.
SC Code Section 42-9-290 says that, if an employee is killed on the job, the employer must provide death benefits to anyone who was wholly dependent on the employee for support:
(A) If death results proximately from an accident and within two years of the accident or while total disability still continues and within six years after the accident, the employer shall pay or cause to be paid, subject, however, to the provisions of the other sections of this title, in one of the methods provided in this chapter, to the dependents of the employee wholly dependent upon his earnings for support at the time of the accident, a weekly payment equal to sixty-six and two-thirds percent of his average weekly wages…
Note that an employee’s dependents are entitled to death benefits not only when the employee is killed in the accident, but also when 1) the employee dies as a result of the accident within two years of the accident or 2) the employee dies within six years of the accident while they are receiving total disability benefits.
Questions about the types of workers’ compensation benefits in SC?
Contact a SC workers’ comp attorney as soon as possible – your workers’ comp attorney on the Axelrod team will help you to gather and present the medical evidence that is needed to maximize your recovery and to appeal any adverse decisions by the Commission.