The employees of nursing homes include registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), certified nursing assistants (CNAs), and nurse aides. Although the duties of workers in such positions might not generally be considered physically dangerous, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nursing home workers actually have a higher rate of job-related physical injuries and illnesses than construction, factory, or transportation employees do.
Workers’ Compensation for Nursing Home Employees
If you’re a nursing home employee injured on the job in Florence, SC, you’re entitled to file a claim for benefits with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC). Nearly every South Carolina company with four or more workers is required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance to cover its employees’ work-related accidental injuries and occupational illnesses.
If you’re hurt in the course and scope of doing your job, your employer’s workers’ comp insurer should cover all your medical expenses and two-thirds of the wages you lose due to time off work. In some cases, you may collect long-term disability benefits or receive vocational re-training if you can’t return to your original position. You don’t have to prove your employer was at fault for your injuries, and you cannot be fired for filing a claim. If you’ve lost a loved one to an on-the-job injury or illness in a nursing home, you may file for workers’ comp death benefits, as well.
Nursing Home Employees’ Duties Leading to Injury and Illness
The duties of nursing home personnel include a variety of activities that can lead to an on-the-job injury, including:
- Moving patients from gurneys and stretchers to beds
- Putting and holding patients’ bodies in correct positions for X-rays and other diagnostic tests
- Assisting patients with bathing and other personal care
- Turning patients over in bed
- Pushing patients in wheelchairs
- Moving heavy medical equipment
Daily repetition of such duties often leads to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which include damage to joints, muscles, nerves, and ligaments of the arms, hands, legs, neck, and back. If left untreated, MSDs can worsen with time and daily strain until the afflicted worker is incapacitated and in serious pain.
In addition to performing activities leading to MSDs, nursing home workers are exposed to air- and blood-borne pathogens, infectious diseases, radiation, toxic chemicals, needles, and medical waste products. They can easily slip or trip and fall on wet or slippery floors. They might suffer from job-related stress due to current understaffing, too many patients, the ongoing threat of COVID-19, lack of access to the most modern technology, and general overexertion. There is sometimes even a risk of violence at the hands of mentally ill patients or thieves trying to steal the drugs commonly found in nursing homes.
Eligibility for Workers’ Comp Benefits
As long as your Florence nursing home employer has a staff of four or more people, pays you a regular salary, deducts taxes, provides a yearly W-2 tax document, and carries workers’ comp insurance, you should be eligible for benefits if you’re injured or become ill in the course and scope of carrying out your occupational duties. The only reasons you might be disqualified are:
- You injured yourself intentionally.
- You were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of your injury.
- You were injured in the process of committing a crime.
- You’re an independent contractor or a casual worker.
Even though you’re eligible for workers’ comp, if you’ve developed a repetitive-stress illness (like carpel tunnel syndrome) over time, your employer’s insurance company might try to claim your condition is due to non-work-related activity or a pre-existing health problem. The insurer could also try to save money by disputing your claim if it’s an expensive one with high medical bills and a long recovery time. In either such case, an experienced workers’ comp attorney can help you to seek fair benefits and appeal your denied claim by requesting an informal conference, requesting a hearing before the SCWCC, requesting a Commission review of the denial, or filing an appeal with the SC Court of Appeals or the SC Supreme Court if necessary.
If for any reason, your employer does not carry workers’ comp insurance as required by law, the South Carolina Uninsured Employers’ Fund could be a potential source of compensation. You might also file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer if you have no workers’ comp coverage. If, however, your employer does carry workers’ comp and simply denies your claim, you generally may not file a lawsuit for damages. Workers’ comp exists to eliminate and replace lawsuits filed against employers by injured employees, so your only route to seeking fair benefits is the path of workers’ comp appeals described above.
How to Report and File
As soon as you’re injured on the job or become aware of an occupational illness you’ve developed due to your work, you should report your condition to your supervisor or a claims representative at your workplace. If your employer does not file a claim on your behalf with the SCWCC, do so yourself by using a Form 50 from the SCWCC website. See a doctor recommended and certified by your employer’s workers’ comp insurer (not your own doctor) and follow all that doctor’s advice and treatment plans conscientiously. Retain all receipts and other documentation of your injury and treatment. If your claim is denied, if the insurer is slow to approve necessary medical treatments, if you’re sent back to work too soon, or if your company retaliates against you in any way for filing a claim, contact a workers’ comp attorney right away.
Is There Third-Party Liability?
Although you generally may not sue an employer who carries workers’ comp, you may, in some cases, have a cause of action against a third party who is partly or fully responsible for your injury and is neither your employer nor your co-worker. If, for example, a disgruntled family member of a nursing home resident assaults you or a vendor comes into your facility and leaves some object on the floor that causes you to injure yourself in a trip-and-fall accident, you might be able to pursue compensation from that party through the court system. If your suit is successful, your award might make up one-third of your lost wages that workers’ comp will not pay. A personal injury lawsuit might also lead to an award that includes compensation for your pain and suffering, which workers comp does not pay. Again, in such a case, the services of an attorney are strongly recommended.
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.