South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Timeline
If you’ve been hurt on the job, you are likely entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to prevent you from suffering financial hardships while you recover. But the process of applying for workers’ compensation in South Carolina has many deadlines. You’ll need to meet them or risk losing benefits completely.
Time matters in a workers’ compensation case. Your health is always the first priority. Seek medical treatment promptly. Getting timely medical care can play a key role in the outcome of your claim.
There are also notification deadlines. In South Carolina, you have 90 days to inform your employer of your injury or you could lose your rights to workers’ comp altogether. Ideally, you should notify them as soon as you know that you are hurt or sick. Providing notice starts the claims process, but there will be additional deadlines along the way that you don’t want to miss.
Feeling overwhelmed? Let Stewart Law Offices step in. Our dedicated workers’ compensation lawyers can handle your claim from start to finish. We’ll meet every deadline so that you don’t have to.
S.C. Workers’ Compensation Laws
Workers’ compensation in South Carolina applies to both injuries and occupational diseases. Injuries may occur in a sudden and unexpected workplace accident. They can also happen over time, which is the case with repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. Occupational illnesses such as mesothelioma can take decades to develop, but workers can still receive compensation as long as they meet the filing requirements.
Workers’ compensation benefits include coverage for medical treatment, partial wage replacement for time off work, and disability benefits. Family members are entitled to death benefits if they lost a loved one in a job-related accident.
The workers’ compensation system in South Carolina is a “no-fault” system. That means your employer is obligated to pay you defined and guaranteed workers’ compensation benefits as long as you have a work-related injury or illness, regardless of who or what caused it. In exchange for these benefits, an injured worker gives up his or her right to file a personal injury claim against the employer for negligence.
There are instances when workers’ compensation may be denied. Intentional or reckless acts are not likely to be compensable. For example, if you were intoxicated on the job when the injury occurred, your workers’ comp claim is less likely to succeed.
Other things to know about workers’ compensation in South Carolina:
- You have two years to file for workers’ comp benefits. For accident-related injuries, that means two years from the date of the event. For illnesses, the clock starts running two years from the date of diagnosis. For repetitive injuries, the paperwork must be filed within two years from when you knew (or should have known) that the injury could entitle you to benefits, or seven years from the last occupational exposure.
- After being notified of your injury, your employer must report it to their insurer within 10 days. The insurer must then notify the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission.
- Your employer has the right to select the medical providers that will treat your compensable injury or illness. If you select your own provider, your employer has no obligation to provide compensation unless you receive emergency treatment. You also have the right to have a physician evaluate you for a disability, although your employer does not have to pay for this evaluation.
- Your employer can contact your doctor as long as you are notified in writing and receive a copy of the questions and your doctor’s responses. The employer is also entitled to all relevant medical records regarding your treatment within 14 days of its request.
- If your employer denies your claim, you have the right to file a formal claim with the S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission. This will result in a hearing before a commissioner. A decision can be appealed to a panel of commissioners or the full commission, and from there appealed to the courts if necessary.
Workers’ Compensation Claims Process
Notifying your employer starts the workers’ comp claims process. The 90-day requirement is firm, but you may be excepted if:
- Your employer already had knowledge of your injury or illness.
- You were prevented from notifying your employer due to a physical or mental limitation.
- You were prevented from meeting the deadline due to a third party’s deceit or fraud.
Your employer and its workers’ compensation insurer will investigate your claim. If it’s determined that your injury or illness is compensable, they will start paying your workers’ compensation benefits backdated to the date of your injury or the onset of symptoms.
If your employer denies your claim or declines to pay you the benefits you believe you are entitled to, you can file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission.
To file a claim, you will need to complete a Form 50, which describes the circumstances of the accident, injury, and any resulting disabilities. Family members of a deceased worker would complete a Form 52. You can either have your claim decided by a workers’ compensation commissioner based on your submitted documents, or you can request a hearing.
If you have reached the point of appealing to the Workers’ Compensation Commission, it’s wise to contact an experienced workers’ comp attorney. A hearing is a formal legal process. While a lawyer is not required, many claims that have merit are turned away on a technicality. An attorney can prevent simple errors from causing you to miss out on the critical workers’ comp benefits that you need and deserve.
If you or your employer requests a hearing, you may first be required to participate in a mediation proceeding. In this meeting, you (and your lawyer), along with a representative from your employer, will sit down with a neutral third party in an attempt to reach a workers’ compensation settlement. This would eliminate the need for a formal hearing. If no settlement can be reached, a hearing will be scheduled within roughly four months.
If the commissioner rules against you, you can then file an appeal to be decided by a panel of commissioners or the full commission. If you are still dissatisfied with the decision, your next step would be to file a workers’ compensation lawsuit. Keep in mind that the workers’ compensation timeline will be longer the further along the appeals process you go.
Steps to Take after a Workplace Injury
If you or a loved one suffered a workplace injury or has been diagnosed with an occupational disease, there are steps you can take right away to protect your rights to workers’ compensation benefits.
- Notify your employer. The more quickly you alert your employer, the faster you can begin the process of applying for workers’ compensation benefits.
- Take photos of the accident scene. Try to take photos or videos of the accident scene. This includes whatever caused your injury, whether there were any warning signs or other safety measures in place, and any other visual factors that you think are relevant.
- Get the names of any witnesses. If a co-worker or someone else witnessed the accident, their statements about the incident could play a crucial role in securing maximum workers’ compensation benefits. Make sure to obtain their names, addresses, telephone numbers, and their general account of what happened.
- Obtain medical treatment. Remember that in South Carolina, your employer’s insurer can choose which doctor you see unless you needed emergency care. It’s important to follow these rules so that you don’t lose your rights to benefits. If you choose to step outside your employer’s pre-approved providers, be prepared to pay those costs yourself or through your health insurance. But don’t delay. If you wait to seek medical treatment, your employer may argue that you were not actually injured or hurt as seriously as you claim to be.
- Contact a trusted workers’ compensation attorney. If you are having trouble getting your employer to accept your workers’ compensation claim or to pay proper benefits, you need to get an experienced lawyer’s help to determine what it will take to achieve the best possible outcome.
How to Protect Yourself on the Job
Workers’ compensation is possible for most South Carolinians, but not all of them. A business with four or fewer employees is not required to carry workers’ comp insurance. Agricultural employees, casual employees, federal workers, railroad workers, and independent contractors are also not covered by the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act.
Even if you are entitled to workers’ comp, it’s important to do everything possible to protect yourself at work. This includes:
- Knowing your employer’s policies and guidelines. It is critical that you read and familiarize yourself with your employer’s safety policies, along with state and federal safety guidelines and requirements applicable to your job or industry. These policies will instruct you on how to safely perform your job duties and what to do in the event of an accident.
- Identifying hazards. You should take time to identify hazards in your workspace that can cause injury. If you have concerns, report them to your employer immediately.
- Ensure that your concerns are investigated and addressed, if possible. You are entitled to a job environment that is free from all reasonable hazards. If you have identified areas of concern and reported them to your employer, it’s important to see that those issues are taken seriously. Your employer may not make changes, but they should at least take steps to investigate your concerns. In some cases, they may even take you up on your suggestions and modify the workspace to make the environment safer. Mitigation efforts can include redesigning work tasks to eliminate unsafe work practices, switching out materials or equipment for less dangerous or hazardous equivalents, or adding additional safety equipment.
- Keep work areas clean and clutter-free. Slip, trip, and fall accidents are some of the most common causes of work injuries. Many of these accidents could be prevented by making sure obstacles are out of the way and stored properly.
- Wear appropriate protective gear. Always wear your safety gear. Hard hats, fall protection, or personal protective equipment are provided for a reason. If you choose not to wear the employer-provided safety equipment, the employer could argue that you were careless and therefore not entitled to workers’ comp benefits.
- Take care to avoid repetitive stress injuries. Examples of repetitive trauma include tendonitis, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and more. Do what you can to avoid harm by maintaining the correct posture and form, regardless of whether you are typing at a desk or operating a piece of heavy machinery. Take regular breaks to get up, stretch, and move around. Seek assistance and use proper techniques when moving heavy objects.
Let a Hardworking Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Stand Up for You
At Stewart Law Offices, we understand how a job injury or illness can drastically impact your livelihood. We also know how frustrating it can be to secure workers’ compensation benefits in South Carolina.
Although the system sounds straightforward, claims are often anything but easy. Whether you are just beginning to apply for benefits or are seeking to appeal to the Workers’ Compensation Commission, a devoted lawyer from Stewart Law Offices can help. Our lawyers will hit the ground running, thoroughly investigating your claim to prove why you deserve maximum workers’ comp benefits.
We will also help you document your injuries and losses so that you can get the reasonable and necessary medical treatment you need and the wage replacement you deserve. We can also work with medical professionals to establish disabilities caused by your injuries or illness so that you get the disability payments you are owed.
In addition, we will investigate whether any third parties may be liable for your injuries. Although you cannot file a personal injury lawsuit against an employer who carries workers’ compensation insurance, you may have additional legal options if an outside third party played a role in your injury. For example, construction jobs often have contractors and subcontractors working on the same site at the same time. If you were injured due to a hazard caused by someone other than your employer, you could have a valid legal claim against them.
Don’t wait another day to file your claim for workers’ compensation benefits and learn whether you have other legal options. Contact Stewart Law Offices today to schedule a free consultation with a proven SC workers’ comp lawyer.