Recently, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in favor of an injured worker.
The court ruled that the injured worker was entitled to Permanent and Total Disability benefits even though he was able to go back to his old position.
According to SC Worker's Compensation laws, there are two ways to qualify for Total Disability Benefits.
1. A person has an "incapacity for work," according to Code Section 42-9-10.
2. A person has suffered functional loss of use of at least 50% of the injured body part, Code Section 42-9-30.
In this specific case, in September of 2010, Henton Clemmons Jr was working at Lowe's Home Improvement as a cashier.
While helping a customer, he slipped and fell and severely injured his back.
After seeing a neurologist, the doctor determined Mr. Clemmons had a herniated disk that would require surgery.
The doctor performed the surgery in which he removed the herniated disk, fused two vertebrae together, and then screwed a rod into the back. After surgery, extensive physical therapy was ordered but despite treatment, Mr. Clemmons still had trouble walking and maintaining his balance. He also continued to suffer from pain in his neck and back.
A worker's compensation claim was admitted through Lowe's and they agreed to pay his Temporary Total Disability benefits until he reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) or was able to go back to work.
In June 2011, Mr. Clemmons saw his doctor and it was determined that he had reached MMI and could return to work with a permanent restriction. His whole person impairment rating was 25%, however his regional impairment to the spine was at 71%.
A year later, Mr. Clemmons had a follow up evaluation with his doctor who found the same MMI. Lowe's requested a hearing with the Worker's Compensation Commission to see if any permanent disability benefits were owed.
Despite medical evidence, the commission ruled Mr. Clemmons had not suffered a permanent total disability but could receive permanent partial disability.
An appeal was filed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.
The case then went to the SC Supreme Court where they disagreed. The Supreme Court found that Mr. Clemmons had suffered a 50% loss of back function and should be awarded Permanent and Total Disability.
The only rebuttal from Lowe's was that there was wage loss but no evidence contrary to the medicals.
Judges also left open the option for employers to use medical testimony and evidence from their own experts to put up the burden of proof in future cases.
Have You Been Injured On The Job?
If you've been hurt at your job you can speak with a workers' compensation lawyer. Please contact us online or call our Charleston, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach or North Charleston office locations.