When someone has been hurt at work, filing for benefits can be scary and frustrating. The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation laws get more complicated every year, as the South Carolina Legislature passes new workers’ compensation laws, the courts issue decisions affecting claims, and the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission creates new regulations. There are several deadlines that can trip up injured workers, and there is a large amount of paperwork that must be properly filed to preserve your rights. On top of that, the insurance companies are always looking for excuses to deny claims and hold up compensation and treatment. Trying to navigate the system can be very difficult, especially when someone is already dealing with an injury. Unfortunately, a small misstep along the way can have LIFETIME repercussions for injured workers.
1. Not Reporting The Injury
South Carolina law provides up to 90 days for an injured worker to report an injury to their employer, and the Statute of Limitations for South Carolina Workers’ Compensation claims is two years – but that does not mean it is a good idea to wait to report an injury! Even though the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation system is “no-fault,” claims can be and often are denied. The more time that passes before an injury is reported, the greater the likelihood that crucial evidence could be lost. Surveillance videos are recorded over or deleted, witnesses can forget what they saw, and the longer an injured worker takes to report an injury, the more suspicious the insurance company can become. And, many employers REQUIRE that injured employees report injuries as soon as they occur.
The best way to handle an on-the-job injury is to REPORT IT RIGHT AWAY. Most employers have procedures in place for reporting an injury, including forms to fill out, and the sooner this is done the better.
Many people assume that an injury has to be a sudden event, like a fall, or like picking up a heavy object and feeling a “pop.” This is not the case! There is a separate category of injury called “repetitive trauma injuries.” Repetitive trauma injuries are injuries that occur over time due to overuse of the body, often in an assembly line-type environment. There is no one particular moment of injury. These injuries need to be reported as soon as the injured workers are aware that there is a problem. Sooner is always better than later.
Many injured workers are afraid that they will suffer repercussions at work for reporting an injury or filing a workers’ compensation claim. What they do not realize is that ALMOST NEVER HAPPENS – IT IS ILLEGAL for an employer to fire or even demote an employee for filing a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation claim! The injured employee has the right to sue the employer to get their job back, and for any lost income. Most employers are aware of this law and they do not want to add a lawsuit to a workers’ compensation claim.
2. Not Asking For Medical Treatment
When someone is injured on the job in South Carolina, the next step after reporting the injury is to ASK FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT. Sometimes injured workers will take a “wait and see” approach to asking for medical treatment, in the hopes that they will get better. This can create several problems later. The more time that elapses between an injury and the beginning of medical treatment, the more opportunities the insurance company and defense lawyer have to look for possible intervening causes of injury. For example, if someone is injured on a Thursday, and they wait until Monday to ask for treatment, the insurance company could try to claim that they must have been hurt over the weekend on their personal time – even if they reported the injury right away. This is the kind of problem that a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation attorney may be able to help with, but it is better not to create the issue in the first place!
3. Not Telling The Doctors About All Of The Symptoms
Dealing with doctors and other medical providers in the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation system can be difficult because the insurance companies want to LIMIT THE TREATMENT as much as possible. If an injured worker does not report pain or other symptoms in a particular part of the body at the first visit, and only mentions it later, the insurance companies and defense lawyers will often try to EXCLUDE those problems from compensation and say that they are not related to the work accident. An injured worker must make sure to tell every doctor or other medical provider about each and every symptom, no matter how much or how little it bothers you.
4. Not Following Doctors’ Orders
It is very important that an injured worker shows up for all appointments, on time, every time. Missing appointments can lead to the insurance company or defense lawyer accusing you of “noncompliance,” which in some cases can allow them to cut off your benefits! Don’t let this happen to you. Be sure to keep a calendar of appointments and arrange transportation ahead of time.
Many injured workers do not realize that the insurance company has to provide transportation to and from appointments. If you drive yourself or catch a ride, the insurance company has to reimburse you at a mileage rate set by the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. If you cannot provide transportation on your own, the insurance company will send a car and driver to transport you to and from your appointments. Be careful about using taxi cabs or ride-sharing apps such as Lyft or Uber – the insurance companies are not required to reimburse you for that!
5. Not Getting A Lawyer Soon Enough
Sometimes an injured worker will decide to “wait and see how things go,” and delay the decision to get a lawyer. Although everyone who is injured on the job may not need a lawyer, it cannot hurt to call a lawyer to get some advice early on. There may be something going on with the case that could make a big difference, and professional advice can make a world of difference at this point!
While it is never too late to consult with an experienced South Carolina Workers’ Compensation lawyer, the sooner we get involved with the case, the easier the process can be for our clients. When you hire a lawyer, you can stop worrying about whether you are being treated fairly – we make sure of it! Also, when we are hired by a new client we have to order all of the medical records and other file material to get up to speed on the claim, and that can lead to delays if the case is at a critical point, such as after the client has been released by the doctor or the claim has been denied.