Yes, if your loved one is in a coma due to a work-related injury or illness, you should contact an attorney to help you seek workers’ comp benefits for that person. A coma is an extended period of unconsciousness that can be the result of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) sustained in a workplace accident that should be covered by workers’ compensation.
Most South Carolina companies with four or more employees must carry workers’ comp, which is no-fault insurance for employees who suffer accidental work-related injuries. Rather than file lawsuits against their employers, such employees can file claims for workers’ comp benefits that include medical bills, lost wages, and long-term disability care. An injured employee need not prove any negligence on the part of the employer, and the employer may not retaliate against the employee for filing a claim.
Common Causes of Work-Related TBIs Resulting in Comas
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, workplace accidents and conditions causing TBIs include:
- Dangerous floors and other surfaces
- Vehicle accidents
- Spills of water, oil, and other liquids
- Slip-and-fall mishaps
- Faulty or inadequate tools or safety equipment
- Open excavations
- Falling objects
Any of the above can cause a TBI and possibly leave the worker in a coma. In such a case, a family member may file a workers’ comp claim on the victim’s behalf.
Getting Workers' Compensation Benefits In South Carolina
Just filing a claim against the employer’s insurer does not guarantee your loved one will receive fair workers’ comp benefits. If a TBI has left the victim in a coma, the doctors might not know:
- If or when the victim will regain consciousness
- What the victim’s mental condition might be after regaining consciousness
- If or when the victim will be able to return to work and in what capacity
Because such a victim’s claim could be extremely expensive for the insurance company to pay, its adjusters and attorneys might try to deny the claim. Reasons cited by an insurer for a denial might include the following:
- The accident that caused the TBI and coma was not work-related.
- The worker had a pre-existing condition.
- The worker is ineligible for workers’ comp benefits.
When this happens, you need an experienced workers’ comp lawyer in your loved one’s corner to consult with doctors and help prove there is work-related physical brain damage. This can be done with neuropsychological testing, cognitive behavioral testing, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computerized tomography (CT). If the doctor declares the TBI severe and permanent, your lawyer can help you seek maximum workers’ comp benefits (all medical bills plus a weekly lost wage benefit) for the duration of the coma and possibly for life.
The Role of Your Attorney
The workers’ comp claims process has very specific requirements that must be met in order for your loved one to collect benefits. The employer must be notified of the accident and injury in question. A Form 50 must then be filed with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC). Your loved one must be examined by a doctor certified and recommended by the employer’s insurer. All of the above must be done within certain time limits and according to procedural requirements. If these requirements aren’t met, or deadlines are missed, your loved one, whose medical bills will begin to pile up very shortly after the accident, could lose the opportunity to collect benefits at this very difficult time. For these reasons, the services of an experienced lawyer are highly recommended if you’re pursuing a workers’ comp claim on behalf of a comatose family member.
If the insurer will not accept the claim and offer fair benefits, your lawyer can request an informal conference with the insurer, a hearing before the SCWCC, or a Commission review. If a fair offer is still not forthcoming, your attorney may appeal your case to the SC Court of Appeals and the SC Supreme Court.
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.