Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Columbia South Carolina
If you’ve been injured on the job, you are likely entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. In general, workers’ compensation benefits are awarded for temporary disability, permanent total disability, and permanent partial disability.
There are different situations in which different types of benefits apply, and there are some limits on benefits. To learn more about what benefits you may be eligible for, contact Stewart Law Offices, and speak with a knowledgeable Columbia workers’ compensation attorney now.
Temporary Disability Benefits
In South Carolina, temporary disability benefits are made available for workers who are unable to work for a relatively short period of time. If you miss 14 days of work or fewer, you will not be paid benefits for the first seven days. However, if you are out of work for more than 14 days, you will be paid for the initial seven days as well as the remainder of time off up until the limit or whenever you go back to work.
Temporary total disability benefits are available if you are unable to work at all. These benefits are calculated as two-thirds of your average weekly pay. Average weekly pay is calculated by using the total wages from the four quarters leading up to the quarter when the injury occurred. There is a maximum amount under the law for these benefits, even if two-thirds of your pay is higher than this cap. As of January 1, 2019, the maximum benefit is $845.74 per week.
You may be entitled to temporary partial disability benefits if you are able to work but are earning less than normal because of your injury. Temporary partial disability benefits are calculated as two-thirds of the difference between your pay prior to the injury and after the injury.
You may receive temporary benefits until you have reached maximum medical improvement, or you are able to go back to your regular job. At most, temporary total disability benefits are available for 500 weeks following an injury, and partial disability benefits are available for 340 weeks after an injury.
Permanent Total Disability Benefits
To be entitled to permanent total disability benefits, you must meet a stringent definition of what constitutes permanent total disability. Although there are other ways to meet the criteria, typically you must have lost both of your hands, feet, arms, or legs, become blind in both eyes, or suffered a combination of two of these types of loss.
For permanent total disability, the rates are the same as temporary rates, but you can receive benefits for longer, usually up to 500 weeks. Certain injuries, such as paraplegia, quadriplegia, and traumatic brain injury, may entitle you to receive benefits for the rest of your life.
Permanent Partial Disability Benefits
If you have a permanent impairment that falls short of total disability, you may be eligible to receive two-thirds of your average weekly pay for a certain period of time. Permanent partial disability payments will be paid depending on how they are classified:
- Scheduled awards: A scheduled award is a type of workers’ compensation payment you will receive if you are permanently partially disabled and the injury you have suffered is listed in the statute governing this area. This statute specifies a period of time that you can receive benefits for a variety of specific injuries. For example, if you lose one hand through an injury at work, you are entitled to two-thirds of your average weekly wages for 185 weeks.
- Unscheduled awards: An unscheduled award is one that is not listed in the statute. Here, you are entitled to benefits based on a disability rating compared to the body as a whole. Ratios are used for partial loss or use of a body part and determine the amount you are paid. Payments may be made up to a maximum of 500 weeks.
- Disfigurement: This is treated differently from other injuries and must be considered where permanent disfigurement occurs to the face, head, neck, or other area of the body that is typically exposed. These awards are based on equitable considerations and cannot be made for more than 50 weeks.
This area of the law can be especially confusing, so do not hesitate to reach out to a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer in Columbia at Stewart Law Offices if you think your injury falls under this category.
In addition to the rates outlined above, you may be entitled to other benefits:
- Medical benefits: You can recover compensation for all medical expenses that are considered reasonable and necessary to treat your workplace injury. Typically, you may have the costs of surgery, hospital stays, medical supplies and devices, and prescription medication covered. Ordinarily, you must go to the doctor of your employer’s choice in order to receive medical benefits under workers’ compensation laws.
- Mileage reimbursement: You can be reimbursed for the money you spend traveling to and from the doctor as a result of your injuries.
- Vocational rehabilitation: In some cases, an injury at work leaves you unable to come back to the same type of job. If this happens to you, you may be eligible to receive help in finding a new type of work. This is called vocational rehabilitation. Professionals will help you understand what caused your injury, what job skills you have, and how to use technology to assist you. They’ll also help you gain new job skills for a different job from what you had previously. The focus during vocational rehab is finding a job that will work for you given your new limitations. All types of assistive devices are evaluated during vocational rehab if necessary. These can include physical aids such as wheelchairs or technological aids such as specially designed software. Often an injured worker may obtain a job with the same employer, but sometimes a job search is necessary.
- Death benefits: If a workplace injury causes death, then eligible dependents may be entitled to receive death benefits. Dependents can receive weekly compensation based upon the deceased employee’s average weekly wage. The general rule is that two-thirds of the deceased employee’s average pay may be paid to eligible dependents. Death benefits also include an allowance for funeral expenses in an amount not to exceed $2,500.
The types of compensation you may be able to pursue will depend on the details of your particular accident and injury.
How Much Does Workers’ Compensation Pay in South Carolina?
Workers’ compensation benefits in South Carolina have caps on the amounts that can be paid to replace your income. These caps are determined by the average weekly wage in South Carolina, which is calculated by the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce.
The most recent calculation was $845.74 per week as of January 1, 2019. Even if two-thirds of your income comes to an amount above $845.74, you will only be entitled to that amount per week. The additional benefits listed above are additional amounts you may be able to recover, but they depend on the specific facts of your case.
Limitations of Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Columbia, SC
Workers’ compensation benefits are intended to compensate you for a period of time following an injury, but they may not provide enough benefits to address all the financial challenges you face as a result of your injury. You are unable to recover any non-economic damages like pain and suffering or mental anguish in a workers’ comp claim. The limits on benefits are tied to just medical expenses and a percentage of your income.
In certain circumstances, it may make sense to file a separate lawsuit against your employer. While not a possibility in every case, sometimes you may be in a position to sue your employer for gross negligence or malice. This would be in a situation where the employer took a specific action with intent to cause you harm. Ordinary negligent acts are not enough to warrant a lawsuit against your employer, as workers’ compensation laws generally prevent you from suing your employer.
Another reason to sue your employer is if the employer has not obtained workers’ compensation coverage or not enough workers’ compensation coverage. In this type of case, the employer has broken the law, and you may be entitled to payment directly from your employer for failing to uphold their duty to have proper insurance. You may also be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits directly from the government in a situation like this.
In other cases, a third-party may be responsible for your injury, such as a subcontractor on a job site or a manufacturer of a defective piece of equipment. If this is the case, you may be able to pursue a personal injury claim for compensation from the at-fault party.
If you are unsure whether your case involves more than workers’ compensation, you should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Contact Our Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Today
If you have suffered a workplace injury, our experienced personal injury attorneys in Columbia at Stewart Law Offices can assist you in filing a claim, collecting medical documents, and seeking maximum compensation from the insurance company. If necessary, we are prepared to represent you in hearings and through the appeals processes.
A work injury can completely change your life, so please do not hesitate to contact us by calling (866) 465-7851 or by reaching out online to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today.