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
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
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 his or her case successfully or prevailed in court. But by the time he got any relief, court and lawyer expenses often resulted in the loss of home, family, and health. The number of indigents, 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
Employers give up their common law defenses in exchange for limits on their liability
Workers’ compensation has evolved into a system of statutes enacted by each state that provide lost income, medical, and permanent disability benefits for employees who are injured on the job.
You need someone on YOUR side
Despite the safeguards, workers’ compensation insurance companies are businesses interested in keeping their costs down, and employers tend also to be interested in keeping their workers’ compensation premiums as low as possible. You may, therefore, need someone knowledgeable in workers’ compensation law on your side. This is especially true in the event that you have a severe injury or permanent impairment that prevents you from continuing to perform your job.
Workers’ compensation cases are usually more complex than they may at first appear. Your injuries, for example, may be covered even though they were caused by inadequate instruction or supervision. The insurance carrier may ask you to settle your claim by trying to convince you that coverage does apply due to circumstances surrounding your particular case. Thomason and Pracht, LLP has the resources to properly investigate such circumstances; we can help you gain fair recovery by helping you strengthen your position and pursue all available legal remedies.
You can sue a third party
While an employee covered by workers’ compensation cannot sue her employer, she may file suit against third parties whose negligence caused her to be injured. For example, if a trucker is injured when an automobile hits his truck, the trucker could file a workers’ compensation claim against his employer’s insurance carrier and a negligence suit against the driver of the automobile.
Employers are generally not required to advise their employees on the specifics of the workers’ compensation coverage they provide. But most states require that a summary of the state’s workers’ compensation laws and the name of their insurance carrier be posted in a prominently visible place at the worksite. If an employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance, an employee who is injured on the job may sue his or her employer directly, and many states award penalties against such employers.
If an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company goes bankrupt, sometimes other insurance carriers will purchase and take over the bankrupt carrier’s claims. Failing this, states have set up funds to guarantee that injured workers’ benefits are honored.
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.
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.
What kind of compensation will I receive with Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation provides benefits for short and long-term disability, medical expenses, and death benefits. Compensation may be provided for:
Lost wages while you are temporarily disabled
Necessary medical treatment
Permanent disability or disfigurement
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. Thomason and Pracht, LLP can determine the avenue of compensation most beneficial to you.
Do I need an attorney for Workers’ Compensation?
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. Thomason and Pracht, LLP can ensure all of these steps are completed correctly and that you receive a fair amount of compensation in a timely manner.
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 — who pays medical and disability benefits according to a state-approved formula.
Does workers’ compensation cover only injuries or does it also cover long-term problems and illnesses?
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.
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 and, if not, can I trust a doctor provided by my employer?
In some states, and Thomason and Pracht, LLP 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.
Can I ever sue my employer in court over a work-related injury?
Yes. If you are injured because of some reckless or intentional action on the part of your employer, you can bypass the workers’ compensation system and sue your employer in court for a full range of damages, including punitive damages, pain and suffering, and mental anguish.
Most South Carolina employers are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance. This type of insurance is designed to pay for your lost wages and necessary medical treatment. In exchange for these benefits, you cannot sue your employer. Filing these claims can be complex, Thomason and Pracht, LLP has the experience necessary to make sure you receive the benefits you are entitled to. Our primary office is located in Anderson, South Carolina. We handle cases throughout South Carolina on behalf of injured individuals. Our office in Anderson, South Carolina, Thomason and Pracht, LLP is ready to serve you. Call us today.