BACKGROUND OF WORKERS’ COMPENSATION
In the late 1800s, when the railroads were being built, the number of industrial accidents in this country increased dramatically. Those injured by industrial accidents had to bring a lawsuit to get paid for their injuries or have their doctor’s bills paid.
Most of the injured workers received nothing. Their doctor’s bills weren’t paid and they weren’t paid for their time off work. A small percentage of the injured workers received very large awards.
This system was clearly unworkable. It wasn’t helping the injured workers or the employer. The state legislature set up a system specifically for work related injuries called the Workers’ Compensation system. Employers have to pay for the doctor’s bills of the injured workers, their time off work and for any disability created by the accident. The employer has to pay these benefits whether the employee can show negligence or not.
In exchange, the employees do not have the right to sue the employer and the right to a jury award. The payments for disability are according to a set scale. The Workers’ Compensation system has been the law of South Carolina since 1937.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BASICS
Who Is Covered? If you are hurt on the job and your employer has more than four employees, you’re covered under the Workers’ Compensation system. As long as you were doing your job when you got hurt (in the course and scope of your employment), you will be covered under the Workers’ Compensation system.
What Is Covered? Workers’ Compensation insurance will pay for all medical expense related to your injuries and for your time off work because of your injuries. You will also be paid for any permanent disability when you have completed your medical treatment. You will receive compensation for the amount your injury affects your ability to earn a living.
How Much Can I Get? The amount you get is based on your pay rate, the parte s) of your body that are injured, and the extent of your injuries after you’ve finished treating. The maximum you can get is ten years (500 weeks) of your base pay. The only way to get beyond 500 weeks is physical brain injury or paraplegia.
My Work Messed Up. Can I Sue Them? No. Workers’ Compensation is the only remedy available for work-related injuries. That’s the tradeoff involved in Workers’ Compensation. The employer will pay for medical bills and time off work. In exchange, the worker is not allowed to sue the employer.
WHAT WORKERS’ COMPENSATION DOES NOT INCLUDE:
- Pain and Suffering
- The Difficulties you have gone through
- The difficulties your family has gone through
- The things your boss has done to you
The Workers’ Compensation statutes do not include these types of damages. Because Workers’ Compensation is based on statutes, there is no way to ask for or receive money for these types of damages.
COMMON WORKERS’ COMPENSATION TERMS
Average Weekly Wage. Your average gross wages for a week. This is the gross amount before the taxes and everything else is taken out. It includes overtime and any other benefits received.
Comp Rate. Two thirds (2/3) of your Average Weekly Wage. There are no taxes paid on Workers’ Compensation benefits. Taxes are not taken out on a weekly basis and you do not have to pay taxes on Workers’ Compensation benefits at the end of the year.
Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). Maximum medical improvement is when you are recovered from your injuries, or “as good as you’re going to get.” You have reached maximum medical improvement when you have finished with surgery, physical therapy, and any other treatment the doctor might prescribe for you. Your Workers’ Compensation case usually won’t be concluded until you reach MMI.
Impairment. When you have reached maximum medical improvement, your doctor may give you an impairment rating. This is a rating based on the functionality of your body. For example, a loss of 17% of use to your left leg. This impairment is not based on the ability to work, but the use or inability to use your body. Doctors give impairment ratings. Workers’ Compensation is based on disability, not impairment.
Disability. Workers’ Compensation benefits are based on disability and not impairment.
Disability in Workers’ Compensation terms means a vocational disability. How does the injury keep you from doing your job? Depending on your age, health, work history, job restrictions, job requirements, education and other factors, the disability rating can be higher than the impairment rating.
Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE). After you have reached MMI, there is a good chance that you will have a functional capacity evaluation. It is an intensive test of your ability to lift, bend, stretch, stand, sit, etc. Doctors often use the results of the FCE to determine your work restrictions.
Clincher. Depending on your medical situation at the end of the case, the Workers’ Compensation system will be required to provide for ongoing treatment for your work-related injury. Even if the doctor does not order ongoing treatment, you can still request help f there has been a change in circumstances within the first year. By signing a clincher (settlement agreement), you will receive more money, but you will also forfeit all right to future medical treatment for your work-related injury.
HOW LONG WILL THE CASE LAST?
If you are unable to work because of your injury, you will receive weekly benefit checks until you have reached MMI. Once you reach MMI, it will be time to determine your permanent disability.
The longer the medical treatment lasts, the longer it will take for your case to finish.
Once you’ve reached MMI, your employer can request that your weekly benefit checks be stopped and a permanent disability rating be determined.
HOW WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CASES ARE CALCULATED
Permanent and Total. If you are unable to return to any type of work at all and the doctor says this is a permanent condition, then you will receive a total of 500 weeks disability pay at your comp rate. The 500 week total includes the temporary disability checks received during the case.
The longer the medical treatment lasts, the longer it will take for your case to fiImpairment to a Body Part. Another method of receiving disability is based on a “scheduled” body part according to a Workers’ Compensation chart.
Need More Information?
For more information or to discuss your case with a lawyer at Harvey & Battey, call (843) 524-3109 or click the button below to contact us online.