How long it takes to receive workers' compensation benefits after an on-the-job injury depends on several factors discussed below. Workers' comp is no-fault insurance covering most South Carolina employees' work-related injuries and occupational illnesses. However, workers' compensation is not automatically provided after a work accident. Instead, injured workers need to file the correct forms to pursue a recovery and secure compensation. You have the right to have an experienced Charleston workers' compensation lawyer help you every step of the way.
The award-winning workers' compensation lawyers at Derrick Law Firm have more than 250 years of combined legal experience and more than 2,500 five-star reviews. We represent injured workers in Charleston and throughout South Carolina, and we welcome the chance to help you recover fair workers' compensation benefits as quickly as possible.
What is Workers' Compensation?
Workers' compensation benefits include payment of all your medical expenses and approximately two-thirds of your lost wages during the time that you're off work for treatment and recovery.
Nearly every South Carolina employer with four or more employees on the payroll is required to carry workers' compensation insurance. You don't have to prove that anyone did anything wrong that resulted in your workplace injury, and you generally give up the right to sue your employer over a work injury. Your only recourse is a workers' comp claim. Your boss cannot fire you or retaliate against you for trying to obtain fair compensation.
Meet South Carolina Workers' Compensation Reporting Deadlines
The first step toward expediting your claim is meeting deadlines in the filing process. The South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission (SCWCC) gives you 90 days to report a work-related accidental injury and two years to file a claim for benefits, but you should do both immediately. Report your injury in writing to your supervisor as soon as possible after it happens. If your employer does not file a claim on your behalf with the SCWCC, you should do so on your own by filing a Form 50 (for injuries or illnesses) or a Form 52 (for the work-related death of a loved one) from the SCWCC website. When doing so, check box 13a to indicate you're filing a claim but not requesting a hearing.
Delays Could Jeopardize Your South Carolina Workers' Compensation Claim
You'll likely lose your right to benefits if you miss the reporting or filing deadline. If you don't miss the deadlines but wait until the last minute to report or file, your employer's insurance company can cite your delay as evidence that your injury is not work-related or that you're not as badly hurt as you claim.
Other Ways Insurers Avoid Paying Workers' Compensation Benefits
If your injury is severe enough to require expensive medical treatment and a long recovery time, there's a good chance that your employer or the insurance company will look for ways to avoid paying your claim. The insurer's tactics might include:
- Contending that your injury is not work-related
- Accusing you of injuring yourself intentionally
- Purposely delaying the progress of your claim
When You Will Get Workers' Compensation Benefits
If your employer or the insurer doesn't dispute your workers' comp claim, you can start receiving workers' compensation payments as soon as seven days after you file. If you're off work for 14 days or more, you should receive workers' compensation benefits that are retroactive to the date of your workplace injuries. Those benefits should then continue until the doctor releases you to return to work.
South Carolina Workers' Compensation Appeal Deadlines
There are even more deadlines to be aware of if you appeal a denied workers' compensation claim to one or more of the five levels available to you:
- Informal conference
- SCWCC hearing
- Commission review
- South Carolina Court of Appeals
- South Carolina Supreme Court
You typically have 14 or 30 days to file an appeal, depending on the level of appeal. Procedural requirements must be met at each level. Failure to meet them can mean failure to collect the benefits you need.
How a Charleston SC Workers' Compensation Lawyer Can Help You
The best way to ensure that your claim proceeds in a timely fashion is to consult an experienced workers' comp attorney. Our workers' compensation attorneys know how to counter the employer's or insurer's attempts to delay, dispute, or deny your claim. Your attorney can organize and present your medical evidence, request an independent medical exam by another doctor, call in an expert witness or a vocational specialist to strengthen your claim, represent you at your conference or hearing, and take your case to the South Carolina Court of Appeals if necessary. Simply knowing that you have a Charleston workers' compensation attorney will make the employer and insurer take your case seriously and handle it promptly.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations Following a Charleston Workers' Compensation Claim
In general, if you fail to report your injury to your employer within 90 days or file your workers' comp claim within two years, the statute of limitations will run out, your claim will be barred, and you will receive no benefits. There are, however, some exceptions to these deadlines.
Repetitive Trauma Injuries
Unlike most work-related injuries, which occur on a particular date when an accident happens, repetitive trauma injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, back trouble, or hearing loss develop over time. If you suffer this kind of injury, you have 90 days from the time you know that you have the condition to report it and two years from that time to file your workers' comp claim—as long as it has been no more than seven years since you were last exposed to repetitive trauma at work.
Asbestosis, dermatitis, knee, elbow, and shoulder conditions, and other such diseases also develop over time, so you cannot report them until you know about them. Once you've been diagnosed with such a disease, you must report it within 90 days and file your workers' comp claim within the two-year statute of limitations.
If it is clear that your employer knows about your accident and injury, you have no duty to report it, but you still have only two years to file your claim.
If you are under 18 when you sustain your injury, the statute of limitations "tolls" or pauses until your 18th birthday, after which you have two years to file your claim.
Physical or Mental Disability
If you are unable to report your injury because of physical or mental disability, the statute of limitations tolls until you are able to do so or until you pass away. Then, either you or your surviving family members have two years to file a claim.
If a worker dies as a result of a fatal workplace accident or disease, surviving family members do not have to report the death within 90 days to receive death benefits. However, they have to file a workers' comp death claim within the two-year statute of limitations. If the employee is given a diagnosis of a terminal condition weeks or months before passing away, the statute might not toll, so you should report a fatal diagnosis to the employer soon after it's received.
South Carolina No-Fault Workers' Compensation Claims Accompanied by Personal Injury Lawsuits
A workers' compensation claim does not have to prove any wrongdoing or negligence by the employer. The injured worker can receive benefits regardless of who was at fault for the accident. In some cases, though, a negligent third party might be involved. For example, if a truck driver is injured in an accident caused by a negligent driver who has no connection to the trucking company, the trucker has three years to sue that negligent driver, but the statute of limitations for the workers' comp claim is still just two years.
How to Keep Your Claim Moving: 7 Things to Do as Soon as Possible After a Charleston Work Injury
As soon as possible after you sustain your accidental work-related injury or are diagnosed with an occupational illness, you should take the following steps to maximize your chances of a successful South Carolina workers' comp claim:
- Submit a written report to your boss or whoever deals with workers' comp claims at your workplace.
- If your employer doesn't file a claim for you with the SCWCC, you should do so by submitting Form 50, which you can find on the SCWCC website.
- Your employer's insurance company should have a list of certified doctors and recommend one of them for you to see. Seek medical treatment right away. You may not just go to your own family doctor. Doing so could affect your claim negatively.
- Keep all appointments with the recommended doctor and any health care providers to whom you're sent.
- Follow the doctor's treatment guidelines and take any medication exactly as prescribed.
- Keep all receipts and records of your medical appointments, treatments, and prescriptions.
- Contact our experienced Charleston workers' compensation lawyers for a consultation about your claim.