How the Benefit Timeline Is Calculated
If you miss work for at least one week due to your injury, you're eligible for benefits on the eighth day following your accident, at which time workers' comp should begin paying you approximately two-thirds of your average weekly salary. If you end up being out for two weeks or more, you can file retroactively for lost wages back to your first day off work.
What Happens When You Return to Work
When your lost wage benefits end depends on the severity of your injury, the type and number of treatments you require, and the demands of your position. When your doctor decides you've reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), you can be released to return to your regular job, and your weekly benefits will be terminated. It's possible, however, that your doctor will release you with an impairment rating and work restrictions limiting how long you can stand up, how much weight you can lift, or how much bending you can do.
If your work restrictions prevent you from performing your previous job, you might be offered a light-duty job that accommodates your restrictions. When this happens, you must make every effort to do that job or risk losing your benefits. If your light-duty job pays less than your previous position paid, you could be eligible for two-thirds of the difference between the two pay rates.
What Is a Disability Rating?
If your employer cannot offer you a light-duty position or your restrictions after MMI make it impossible for you to do any available job, you could be given a disability rating and continue to receive weekly wage loss benefits unless or until you can resume your previous job. In most cases, the maximum number of weeks for lost-wage benefits is 500. In cases of paralysis or traumatic brain injury, though, you might be eligible for lifetime benefits.
Impairment vs. Disability
Your impairment rating and your disability rating are not necessarily the same. It depends upon your job. If, for example, your left leg is 50% impaired and your regular job requires walking, lifting, squatting, or climbing stairs, you could be disabled in terms of that position. On the other hand, if you sit at a desk all day, your leg impairment should not disable you in terms of performing your job.
What Should I Do If I Disagree With My Impairment Rating?
If you disagree with your impairment rating or work restrictions or feel you're being forced back to work too soon, you may request a hearing before the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission (SCWCC). A commissioner will hear statements and examine evidence from both you and your employer's insurer in order to render a judgment. If you still disagree, you may request a review before the entire SCWCC. The insurer will have its attorneys present for your hearing or review, so you're well advised to have a workers' compensation lawyer in your corner, as well. Your attorney can help you by:
- Presenting your medical evidence
- Introducing statements by a medical expert and/or vocational specialist
- Requesting an independent medical exam
- Addressing any retaliation that you've experienced as a result of filing your claim
- Appealing your denied claim to the SC Court of Appeals if necessary
What to Do If You're Hurt at Work
As soon as possible after suffering an accidental work-related injury, you should take the following steps:
- Report your injury to your supervisor.
- If your employer doesn't file a workers' comp claim on your behalf, do so on your own by submitting a Form 50 from the SCWCC website.
- See a doctor recommended by your employer's insurer (not your own doctor).
- Follow all the doctor's orders and treatment plans, including referrals to specialists.
- Take all medications as prescribed.
- Retain all receipts and other documentation of your treatment.
- Keep a journal of your treatment and progress toward recovery.
Why It's Important That You Don't Delay
Even though you have 90 days to report and two years to file, don't wait. Do both as soon as possible. Any delay on your part gives leverage to the insurer's lawyers and adjusters, who will claim your injury is not work-related or is not as serious as you say it is. Contact a workers' compensation attorney if:
- Your employer, the insurer, or your doctor is uncooperative.
- Necessary treatments are not approved in a timely manner.
- You don't receive weekly wage benefits on time.
- You experience retaliation for filing.
- Your claim is denied.
Have You Been Injured on the Job in Conway, South Carolina?
If you've been hurt at your job you can speak with a workers' compensation lawyer. Please contact us online or call our Conway office directly at 843.248.7486 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach, Florence, or North Charleston office locations.