Unfortunately you were injured on the job – now what? Employees who are injured while working in South Carolina are often eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits, such as lost wages and medical care, in order to help get back on their feet. However, there are several hoops that eligible injured employees must jump through before their workers’ compensation claims can be approved. This article provides a brief overview of the steps that must be taken, and common mistakes that should be avoided, in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits in South Carolina. However, please keep in mind that each workers’ compensation claim is unique and that the best way to avoid mistakes when filing your claim is to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
Step 1: Seek Medical Attention
If you get hurt at work, seek medical attention immediately if needed. This should be your first priority.
- Commonly Made Mistakes: Employees who are injured at work sometimes let embarrassment prevent them from seeking medical attention. If you are seriously injured then take care of yourself and get help. Also, be sure that your medical condition is formally documented.
Step 2: Report the Injury to Your Employer
Notifying your employer that you were injured on the job is an essential step in obtaining workers’ compensation benefits. Under the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, injured employees are obligated to notify their employer about their injury within a specified timeframe. Ideally, the employee would notify the employer as soon as possible, but under the Act the injured worker technically has 90 days from the date that the injury occurred to provide notice. Employees who fail to provide notice within the 90 day window risk losing their right to workers’ compensation benefits. However, South Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act does provide a few exceptions to this rule. For example, you may be able to get around the 90 day notification requirement if you can prove that:
- Your employer knew about your injury;
- You did not provide notice within 90 days because you were incapacitated by your injury;
- Your injury was caused by a repetitive motion and therefore did not occur on one particular day; or
- You were prevented from providing timely notice due to fraud or deceit.
- Commonly Made Mistakes: Be sure to report your injury within 90 days, even if you think that an exception applies to your situation. Injured employees make the mistake of not reporting within 90 days for a variety of reasons, most commonly because they mistakenly assume that you must miss work or must have seen a doctor in order to qualify for workers’ compensation. If you think that you may have a claim be sure to tell your employer about your injury within a timely manner, preferably in writing with a copy kept for your records.
Step 3: Make Sure that Your Employer Reports Your Injury to Their Insurance Carrier
Under South Carolina’s Workers Compensation Act, employers are required to file a First Report of Injury or Illness form with the Workers’ Compensation Commission within 10 days of being informed of your injury. If your employer does not do this and report the injury to their workers’ compensation insurance carrier then you have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim on your own. Ideally, your employer will cooperate with you to get your claim resolved, but if this is not the case then proceed to step four.
- Commonly Made Mistakes: Injured employees sometimes mistakenly believe that if their employer is not willing to file a claim on their behalf that they are out of luck. This is not true. If your employer refuses to cooperate with you then it is time to file a claim with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission yourself.
Step 4: If Necessary, File Either Form 50 or Form 52 with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission
If your employer does not file a workers’ compensation claim on your behalf within 10 days, denies responsibility for your injury, or if you think that you are entitled to additional benefits then it is time to file your own claim. You can do this by submitting Form 50 (or Form 52 if you are making a claim for death benefits) to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission.
- Commonly Made Mistakes: At this stage it is very important that you do not drag your feet for too long. Generally in South Carolina you must file Form 50 within two years of the day on which you were injured. There are exceptions to this rule (for example for repetitive trauma injuries), but it is better to be safe than sorry so be sure to file as soon as possible.
Step 5: If Necessary, Attend a Workers’ Compensation Hearing
If your employer has not satisfactorily handled your claim, you have the right to schedule a workers’ compensation hearing with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. This hearing can be requested by checking the appropriate box on Form 50. During the hearing you will have the opportunity to present your case in front of a commissioner.
- Commonly Made Mistakes: While it is possible to represent yourself at this stage of the process, it is highly advisable to employ a competent workers’ compensation attorney to represent you at the hearing. If you do not employ legal counsel your rights may not be adequately protected.
Step 6: If Necessary, File an Appeal
Lastly, if you do not agree with the determination that is made in your case, you have the right to appeal the commissioner’s decision. This can be done by filing a Request for Commission Review (Form 30). Appeals must be filed within 14 days of when the judgement is announced, and your appeal will be heard by a panel of commissioners.
- Commonly Made Mistakes: 14 days is not a lot of time and injured employees who wish to appeal sometimes wait too long to do so. Another common mistake is choosing not to retain competent legal counsel to represent your interests.
What Can We Do to Help?
If you have been injured while working in South Carolina and are considering filing a workers’ compensation claim, contact the Elrod Pope Law Firm today to discuss your legal options. Our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys are well versed in South Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws and can help you avoid all of the commonly made mistakes outlined above.