If you are injured while at work, the first step is to report it thoroughly. You may wish to keep additional records that include other details surrounding the injury, pain levels, or other relevant factors post-injury. It is essential to protect your rights and ensure that you are eligible for total compensation should your injury require it.
After you have notified your employer of the injury, you can ask for any recommended medical facilities to treat injuries while on the job. Time is of the essence, as you have 90 days to report an injury. Seek medical attention for an exam and follow through with any necessary treatment recommended by your doctor.
What Benefits are Available?
There are three main types of benefits available in South Carolina for work injuries. Medical benefits include the cost of your exam and any necessary treatment. Lost wages cover work missed due to your injury or inability to perform as you did before the injury. Permanent disability is the third type of benefit.
These are covered more extensively in South Carolina’s Worker’s Compensation Law. You can receive compensation based on several factors, including the extent of your injuries, average weekly wages received before the injury, and your ability to continue to work.
Can I Be Fired While on Worker’s Comp?
South Carolina is an at-will employment state. At-will employment means an employee can be fired for any reason or no reason at any time. In general, being on worker’s comp does not exempt you from being fired by your employer. What can protect you, however, is retaliatory discharge.
Retaliatory discharge is a law that protects employees from punishment or being fired based on filing a worker’s comp claim. It goes one step further and protects fellow employees from being fired based on their willingness to cooperate as witnesses to the injury.
What Does Retaliatory Discharge Mean for Me?
If an employer fires an employee based solely on the fact that they filed a worker’s comp claim, they have committed retaliatory discharge, which is punishable by law.
The burden of proof lies on the employee. They must prove that the sole purpose for losing their job was that they filed a worker’s comp claim.
The employer can argue that the employee was guilty of other factors that led to their decision. Other factors include chronic tardiness, intoxication or under the influence while at work, disorderly conduct while at work, habitual absence, and more.
The employer can also defend their decision to fire the employee if they prove the employee embezzled money or stole property from their employer. Violations of written (and signed) company policies can also be grounds for proper termination and would not qualify for retaliatory discharge.
How Can I Protect Myself?
Thorough documentation can help with many cases, not just those affecting worker’s compensation issues. Complete documentation of the injury itself, the details surrounding the event that caused the injury, any pictures you have of the injury site, the injury itself, and while it is healing, can help you in the future.
Having documentation of your work history can help to protect you as well. As mentioned above, the burden of proof will rely on the employee to prove whether or not retaliatory discharge is a factor. Suppose you have employee reviews or reports showing that you are an upstanding employee and there aren’t chronic issues in your employee file. In that case, you will have a better shot at protecting yourself against retaliatory discharge.
What is the Statute of Limitations?
As with any issue, it is essential to understand the statute of limitations before pursuing a case.
For worker’s compensation claims, you have two years to pursue worker’s compensation as the employee. From the date of the original injury, you have two years to present a claim to the South Carolina Worker’s Compensation Commission.
As discussed above, you have 90 days to report the injury to your employer. It is best to do this immediately following the injury.
If you feel that retaliatory discharge is a factor in your employment, you have one year to defend yourself and protect your rights.
How Can an Attorney Help?
In some rare cases, worker’s comp claims are straightforward, and all parties cooperate so that you are fully compensated and can get back to work when it is safe for you to do so.
Working with an experienced attorney familiar with worker’s comp laws in South Carolina is beneficial. It can help you position yourself for the maximum compensation you have a right to. They can guide you through the following steps and answer your questions to ensure that you have accurately followed the process.
They can help in communication with the insurance company and negotiating fair compensation. If you haven’t had to negotiate terms or a settlement before, this alone can be invaluable to the process.
Attorneys can also help gather facts to support your case by investigating the accident. They can also identify all responsible parties and help you determine whether further compensation may be available through a third party.
Accidents and injuries happen. They don’t have to derail your life completely. Let our team be your advocate and ensure you have full advantage of the rights outlined in South Carolina law to protect you after a work injury.
Our team has vast knowledge and experience in worker’s comp laws. Contact our office today at (803) 000-0000 to learn more about how we can help you.