For employees who become injured or even ill due to workplace events or conditions, Workers' Compensation can be the bridge they need to get from the initial injury to total recovery without losing the ability to make ends meet.
While most employees have heard of Workers' Comp during employee orientation or special safety presentations, there's a lot of that isn't widely understood.
Workers' Compensation insurance, which accounts for nearly 1.6% of employer spending overall (according to this report from the Center for Construction Research and Training), is a complex program that many day-to-day employees don't know much about.
We thought we'd take today to answer a few frequently asked questions about Workers' Compensation in South Carolina.
Can I Still Receive Workers' Compensation if the Injury Was My Fault?
Workers' Compensation is designed to provide benefits to injured employees without a specific need to prove who was at fault for the accident or injury.
While this means that you don't generally need to provide proof that you weren't at fault, there are situations in which workers will not be covered, such as self-inflicted injuries, or injuries that happen when the employee is under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol that caused the injury while on the job.
Can I See My Own Doctor if I'm Injured on the Job?
Most likely not. Although workers' compensation laws require the employer to pay for 100% of all medical expenses related to the injury, the laws also allow the employer to choose the doctor that provides the treatment. Although it's possible the employer may select your doctor, this rarely happens.
Does Workers' Compensation Reimburse Travel Expenses?
Let's say you suffered a serious back injury as a result of events in the workplace. Your medical treatment and physical therapy are being covered by Workers' Compensation, but driving to and returning from medical treatments is starting to cost you quite a bit just in fuel costs.
Will Workers' Compensation cover travel expenses for medical care?
South Carolina's workers' compensation laws require that the employer reimburse you at the IRS mileage reimbursement rate for all travel to medical appointments that are more than 10 miles round trip. As such, it's important that you keep an accurate record of how far you travel for your medical appointments.
One of the most efficient ways to do this is to get on Google Maps and search out the distance from your home or workplace to where you're receiving treatment, then track to see if the distance roughly matches during your drives. Attach copies of the Google Maps results to your written mileage counts to help prove to Workers' Compensation how far you traveled.
For a more detailed look at current mileage reimbursement rates for Workers' Compensation in South Carolina, you can take a look at the mileage rate charts here on the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission's website.
I Go Right Back to the Same Job After I Heal, Right?
Not necessarily. South Carolina is an employment at will state meaning that absent a collective bargaining agreement or contract, an employee can be terminated at any time without any reason, explanation, or warning as long as that reason is not against public policy and/or illegal. It also means that an employee can quit at any time for any reason.an employer/employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time.
The Family Medical Leave Act may offer some protection for eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons for up to 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period.
If a doctor clears you to return to work or limited duty work after your recovery from your injury and that work is not provided by your employer you may be entitled to additional temporary disability benefits. Those situations may be very fact dependent and consultation with an attorney is recommended to determine your rights and options.
Can I Still Receive Workers' Compensation for Illness or Injuries Not Caused by an Accident?
Possibly. Workers' Comp is designed to cover a variety of work-related injuries and illnesses that are not the result of a single injury by accident including repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, hearing loss, occupational illnesses (such as those brought on by exposure to hazardous chemicals), and some stress-related or mental injuries..
While not every potential injury or illness is covered under Workers' Compensation, don't assume you're not covered if your injury or illness doesn't fit the "usual" examples.
Do I Need an Attorney for Workers' Comp Claims?
In an absolute best-case scenario, no, you wouldn't need to utilize the services of an attorney to file and receive compensation from a Workers' Compensation claim.
Unfortunately, there are simply too many examples of claims that are inappropriately denied, not fully paid out, or that put obstacles in the way of an injured employee trying to make ends meet while they recover.
Many law firms will provide a free initial consultation, in which a legal representative will look over the details of your claim and help you understand your options.
While your situation may need to involve further litigation or mediation in order to settle your Workers' Compensation case, it may also be a situation in which further legal assistance isn't necessarily required.
A good consultation will involve working with you to decide the next best step for your unique situation.
Searching for Help With Workers' Compensation Claims in Columbia, SC?
At Bluestein Attorneys, we don't just have experience working with Workers' Comp claims in South Carolina — our Workers' Compensation team includes the current President of Injured Workers' Advocates and a former President of the organization, too.
Request your FREE consultation today by giving us a call at (803) 779-7599 or just fill out this form at any time.