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.
What Is Worker’s Compensation?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “workers’ compensation systems were established to provide partial medical care and income protection to employees who are injured or become ill from their job.” With these systems in place, employers are also encouraged to help ensure their workplace is safe and free of potential hazards to the employees.
Standard operating procedures, drills, regular maintenance, safety protocols, and regular meetings are ways employers may enforce or regulate safety in the workplace.
Why Is It Important To Tell My Employer Right Away Of An Injury?
It may be confusing to determine whether or not you need to alert your employer of an injury or action at work that caused an illness. As a safety measure, you can make it a habit to report anything of concern so there is awareness should something develop later. The reason for this is that there is also a timeline that you are on when hurt at work to be eligible for benefits.
Typically, you have ninety days to report the incident. If you fail to report the incident promptly, you may be declined for coverage or unable to pursue the compensation you deserve after an accident.
Your employer, upper management, or supervisor can advise you of the next steps. The following steps are likely filling out required paperwork and seeking medical attention when needed.
What Benefits Am I Entitled To?
Due to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, created in 1935, employees can ensure that if they are hurt on the job, they can typically seek damages. The act also provides added assurance that employers can streamline injury or illness issues rather than face potential litigation each time a problem arises, making a timely and costly inconvenience when operating a business for both the employer and the employees.
The benefits you may be entitled to receive include lost wages, medical benefits, and permanent disability. The amount you qualify for will vary for each person as it is calculated based on hours worked, your current salary or wage, your ability to continue working after the injury, and the extent of the injury itself.
What If My Employer Denies My Claim?
Though it is unfair, employers or workers’ compensation insurers sometimes deny even valid claims, knowing that the employee will probably choose not to pursue the claim any further and avoid the hassle. If you feel that you have a valid claim and it is being denied, consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to pursue the claim further and obtain the compensation you deserve.
My Employer Is Treating Me Differently After My Workers’ Comp Claim
Some employers will be angry that a claim was filed in the first place and choose to take it out on the employee that filed it. If you are experiencing evident discrimination, harassment, or other negative behaviors, document them immediately and seek the assistance of a lawyer.
Some other common actions employers may take are reducing your hours or pay significantly after a workers’ comp claim, denying you a valid raise or bonuses, and more. If you are experiencing this behavior, document everything and consult a lawyer.
How Can A Workers’ Comp Lawyer Help Me?
Negotiations aren’t something that most of us deal with on a day-to-day basis. Unless you are an experienced attorney, that is. This lack of negotiation knowledge or experience is what insurance companies rely on when offering you much less than you deserve for your claim. Suppose you feel that your settlement is far less than what you deserve. In that case, you can rely on an experienced attorney to become a trellis advocate and re-negotiate your settlement or pursue other legal options to help you obtain more compensation.
Another critical factor is that an attorney is well-versed in legal matters and can ensure that the proper forms are filled out promptly for your case. As mentioned above, even a valid claim could be rejected if you don’t complete the paperwork promptly and miss your deadline.
They can help you gather all relevant evidence, such as the bills you have incurred, details regarding the accident, and actions from your employer or others on the incident scene. Were there extenuating circumstances related to the accident?
For example, was an outside party’s negligence a factor in your accident or injury? In some cases, a third party may be involved, such as a negligent driver while you are in a company vehicle or a heavy equipment operator on a job site that caused significant injury, and you may benefit largely by pursuing them personally in addition to your workers’ compensation claim. Skilled attorneys can help you determine if this is an option for you and then help you to follow it.
Don’t face a serious work injury alone. Call our office at (803) 855-1012 to schedule your free consultation with our team. We have decades of experience and a passion for helping our clients seek what they deserve, not just what insurance companies or employers are willing to settle for. Don’t take anything less than you deserve. Call us today to get started.
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.