A statute of limitations limits the time you have to take legal action against another party. If you fail to do so within the time allowed, you forfeit your legal right to recover compensation for your damages. If you suffer an accidental injury or develop an occupational illness in the course and scope of doing your job, you generally can’t sue your employer or a co-worker for causing your injury or illness. Instead, you may file a workers’ compensation claim against the employer’s insurance company.
Almost every South Carolina business with four or more employees must purchase workers’ compensation insurance to cover on-the-job injuries or illnesses sustained by its workers. Because workers’ comp is no-fault insurance, you don’t have to prove that your employer’s negligence caused your condition. No matter whose fault it is (even your own), you’re entitled to coverage of:
- All your medical expenses
- Two-thirds of wages lost due to time off work
- Vocational re-training (in some cases)
- Death benefit (for a deceased loved one)
South Carolina Workers’ Comp Timeline
The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC), which administers workers’ comp across the state, allows you 90 days to report a work-related injury or illness and two years to file a workers’ comp claim with the SCWCC. It is not advisable, however, to wait until the last minute to do either. If you delay reporting and filing, your employer’s insurance company might dispute your claim and insist you would have reported and filed sooner had your accident been:
- As serious as you claim it is
You don’t want to give the insurer any ammunition to deny your claim, so you should do the following as soon as possible after being accidentally injured or receiving a diagnosis of an occupational disease:
- Report your injury/diagnosis in writing to your employer or the claims administrator at your work site.
- Go to the SCWCC website and submit a Form 50 (for injury/illness) or 52 (for work-related death of a loved one).
- See a physician certified by your employer’s insurance company. (Going to your own doctor could hurt your claim.)
- Keep all appointments with that doctor and other healthcare providers to whom you’re referred.
- Follow that doctor’s medical advice, see any referred specialists, and take all medications as prescribed.
- Retain all bills, receipts, and other documentation of your medical appointments and treatments.
- Keep a journal describing symptoms of your injury or illness, the progress of your recovery, and the impact of your condition on your ability to perform daily work functions.
Determining If You Need a Lawyer
You can probably handle your claim on your own if:
- Your injury is minor.
- Your medical bills are low.
- You miss little or no work.
- Your boss agrees your injury or illness is work-related.
On the other hand, it’s a good idea to consult a workers’ comp lawyer if:
- You’re seriously injured and anticipate high medical bills.
- Your employer or its insurer denies your claim.
- Your claim is accepted but you don’t receive benefits on time.
- The insurer doesn’t approve treatment procedures in a timely manner.
- You suffer any retaliation for filing a claim.
Worsening Condition Deadline
If your claim is accepted, you receive benefits, and you complete all your medical treatment but feel that you’re condition is getting worse, not better, you may file another Form 50 with the SCWCC for your worsening condition. You must do so within one year after receiving your last benefit payment. Again, it’s never a good idea to wait until the last minute. If you don’t feel that you’ve recovered after completing your treatment and receiving your last benefit payment, file another Form 50 right away.
If either your first or your second claim is denied, your attorney can help you appeal at five different levels:
- Informal conference
- SCWCC hearing
- Commission review
- SC Court of Appeals
- SC Supreme Court
There are deadlines and other procedural regulations at each level. You do not want to lose your opportunity to collect the benefits you deserve.
Exceptions and Extensions
Although the workers’ comp statute of limitations is a hard deadline in most cases, a few rare exceptions are possible:
If an employee dies in a fatal work-related accident, the surviving family members are excused from the 90-day reporting rule but still must file a claim within two years.
If your employer voluntarily waives the statute of limitations or fails to invoke it when two years have passed, you may still file your claim for benefits.
An employer that wrongfully prevents you from filing a claim within the two-year time period cannot invoke the statute of limitations as a defense.
If your injury or illness renders you mentally incapable of filing a claim, the statute is tolled (stopped) until you’re able to do so.
If you’re under 18 when you sustain your injury or illness, the statute is tolled until you reach legal age.
Federal Workers’ Comp Statute of Limitations
If you’re a Federal worker in South Carolina, you’re covered by Federal, not state, workers’ compensation. Both the filing procedure and the statute of limitations are different for Federal workers:
- You must file a Federal workers’ comp claim within three years from the date of your injury or the date when you know or should reasonably know you’ve developed a medical condition as a result of your work.
- If you miss the three-year deadline, your claim might be accepted if your employer became aware of your injury or illness within 30 days of your accident or diagnosis.
As with state claims, it’s always a good idea to report and file as early as possible. You can’t help your claim by waiting.
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.