What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation, which most South Carolina employers with four or more employees are required by law to carry, provides no-fault insurance coverage for employees’ work-related injuries and occupational illnesses. To file a claim for benefits, you don’t have to prove your employer did anything wrong to cause your injury, and you cannot be fired for filing. If your work-related injury is minor, your medical expenses are low, your time off work is short, and your employer does not dispute your claim, you might be able to file a successful workers’ comp claim on your own without the help of a lawyer.
Shortly after your claim is approved, you’ll start receiving weekly benefits equal to approximately two-thirds of your wages, and all your medical bills should be paid. The number of weeks for which you’ll receive benefits depends on how long it takes you to recover. If you reach the stage of maximum medical improvement (MMI) and your doctor releases you to return to your previous job, your benefits will end. If you cannot return to the same job you were doing before your injury, you might be given job restrictions and receive a disability rating.
If you’re able to work only at light-duty jobs that pay less than your previous job, you can receive two-thirds of the difference between those wages for up to 500 weeks. If your disability prevents you from working at all, you could receive medical care and two-thirds of your lost wages for a maximum of 500 weeks. There are, however, two exceptions to the 500-week cap: brain damage and paralysis.
Spinal Cord Injuries and Paralysis
Paralysis can result from a spinal cord injury (SCI), which is one of the most serious injuries you can sustain on the job. Causes of work-related SCIs include any hard impact to the spine, equipment mishaps, motor vehicle accidents, and falling from a scaffold, ladder, or roof.
If such an accident misaligns or breaks your vertebrae, which protect your spinal cord, nerves in the spine can be pinched, compressed, or severed, causing reduced mobility and severe pain. In the worst cases, an SCI can leave a worker completely or partially paralyzed.
A complete SCI leaves you without feeling or mobility below the point at which the spine is damaged. Depending on where the injury is, you could lose sensation and mobility in your legs (paraplegia) or in both your arms and legs (quadriplegia). An incomplete SCI might leave you with some sensation and mobility below the point of spinal damage. Whether you’re completely or incompletely paralyzed, you’re technically entitled to maximum workers’ comp benefits, which include lifelong medical care and a lifelong lost-wage payment equal to about two-thirds of your wages. (Maximum benefits may not be paid in one lump sum settlement but must be dispersed weekly.) You’re also technically entitled to:
- Professional or non-professional home healthcare
- Assistive and therapeutic home equipment
- Physical therapy or rehabilitation, in some cases
- Assistance in purchasing a van equipped for the disabled
- Assistance with installing home modifications for your disability or with purchasing a handicapped-accessible home.
Fighting the Insurance Company
Because you’re technically entitled to all the benefits listed above, a paralysis claim is one of the costliest workers’ comp claims for your employer’s insurer, which is in business to make money for shareholders, not to pay out astronomically expensive claims. The insurance company will have a team of lawyers and adjusters whose job is to save the company money by disputing or downgrading your claim. They might contend that your injury is not work-related or that your paralysis is the result of a previously existing condition. If you’re paralyzed, you’re obviously in no position to go up against these experienced professionals on your own. That’s why filing a successful claim for paralysis benefits requires the services of an experienced workers’ comp attorney who can organize and present your medical evidence to prove your injury is work related and negotiate to get you the maximum benefits you need and deserve.
Have You Been Injured On The Job In Florence?
If you've been hurt at your job in or around Florence, South Carolina, you can speak with a workers' compensation lawyer. Please contact us online or call our Florence personal injury office directly at 843.488.7540 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Charleston, Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach or North Charleston office locations.