Workers’ compensation laws were enacted soon after the turn of the century. Prior to this, courts were bogged down with numerous lawsuits by injured industrial workers whose only recourse for recovering compensation for medical expenses and lost income was to hire a lawyer and sue. Sometimes a worker settled their case successfully or prevailed in court. But by the time they got any relief, court and lawyer expenses often resulted in the loss of home, family, and health. The number of indigent injured workers this created put a large strain on society.
Workers’ compensation is essentially a compromise. Workers give up their right to sue their employers in exchange for swift and assured benefits, while employers give up their common law defenses in exchange for limits on their liability.
If you've been injured at work and need help accessing your South Carolina workers' compensation benefits, the experienced legal team at Pracht Injury Lawyers can help. We're dedicated to fighting for the rights of injured workers and will help you cut through the red tape so you can focus on your recovery.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation laws are designed to compensate you for any injuries you receive on the job. Under these laws, your employer is not liable for your injuries, so you cannot sue your employer. Instead, you will be provided compensation for lost wages and medical expenses regardless of whether your employer is at fault for the injury.
Your injury need not be caused by an accident — such as a fall from a ladder — to be covered by workers’ compensation. Many workers receive compensation for injuries that are caused by overuse or misuse over a long period of time; for example, repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or back problems. You may also be compensated for some illnesses and diseases that are the gradual result of work conditions such as heart conditions, lung disease, and stress-related digestive problems.
Am I Eligible for Workers’ Compensation?
Just about every employee in South Carolina is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, with a few exceptions. Employees who may not be eligible for the benefits include Federal employees, railroad company employees, agricultural employees, and people working at businesses with less than four employees.
Who Pays Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
In most states, employers are required to purchase insurance for their employees from a workers’ compensation insurance company (also called an insurance carrier). In some states, however, very small companies (with fewer than three or four employees) are not required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. In some states, larger employers who are clearly financially stable are allowed to act as their own workers’ compensation insurance companies (also called self-insuring).
When a worker is injured, his or her claim is filed with the insurance company — or self-insuring employer — that pays medical and disability benefits according to a state-approved formula.
What Kind of Compensation Will I Receive?
The Workers’ Compensation Act entitles a person to benefit from injuries, occupational diseases, or death on the job. Some of the benefits include:
- Payment of medical expenses, including mileage to and from medical appointments
- Prescription reimbursement
- Two-thirds of your weekly wage, up to a maximum, while you are unable to attend work
- Payments to replace a portion of your weekly wage while you are unable to work fully
- A disfigurement award for visible scars and burns under certain circumstances
- A money award to pay you for permanent injury
- Penalties if the workers’ compensation carrier does not follow certain rules
- Death benefits to surviving family members if a worker is killed on the job
For missed work, you will be compensated at a rate of about 66 percent of your normal weekly wage. You will also be compensated if you are totally disabled or if you have lost a loved one to a workplace accident.
Can I Sue My Employer Instead of Getting Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Typically, you cannot unless there was some intentional action on the part of your employer. Workers’ compensation laws are designed to prevent this type of lawsuit. Your employer pays for the benefits and is relieved from liability in return. Benefits are provided regardless of who is at fault in the accident.
In some cases, lawsuits are brought against third parties responsible for workplace injuries. For example, an injured construction worker may sue the manufacturer of dangerous and defective machinery. Pracht Injury Lawyers can determine the avenue of compensation most beneficial to you.
Do I Have to Be Injured at My Workplace to Be Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
No. As long as your injury is job-related, it’s covered. For example, you will be covered if you are injured while traveling on business, doing a work-related errand, or even attending a required business-related social function.
Can I Be Treated by My Own Doctor?
In some states, and Pracht Injury Lawyers will explain this further, you have a right to see your own doctor if you make this request in writing before the injury occurs. More typically, however, injured workers are referred to a doctor recruited and paid for by their employers. Your doctor’s report will have a big impact on the benefits you receive.
Keep in mind that a doctor paid for by your employer’s insurance company is not your friend. The desire to get future business from your employer or the insurance company may motivate a doctor to minimize the seriousness of your injury or to identify it as a preexisting condition.
Do I Need an Attorney to File for Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
You are not required to hire an attorney to file a workers’ compensation claim, but it may be in your best interest to do so. The process involves paperwork, deadlines, and proper communication between the insurance company and your doctor. Pracht Injury Lawyers can ensure all of these steps are completed correctly and that you receive a fair amount of compensation in a timely manner.
Pracht Injury Lawyers has the experience necessary to make sure you receive the benefits you are entitled to. We've handled work injury cases in Abbeville, Greenwood, Clemson, Greenville, Easley, Seneca, Spartanburg, Laurens, Columbia, Aiken, Charleston, Orangeburg, Newberry, and throughout South Carolina on behalf of injured individuals. Our office in Anderson, South Carolina, Pracht Injury Lawyers is ready to serve you. Contact us today.