If you have been injured in an accident while on the job in South Carolina, you are likely entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, what happens if no accident ever took place? This is an issue that many South Carolina workers have to deal with each year because they sustained a workplace repetitive stress injury. These injuries, also referred to as repetitive strain injuries and repetitive trauma injuries, are not caused by discrete accidents. Instead, they typically occur very gradually over long periods of time as a result of performing a similar task over and over again. RSIs can be both incredibly painful and completely debilitating. The good news is that RSI victims are entitled to their full and fair workers’ compensation benefits. Though, unfortunately, it must be noted that recovering benefits for this type of injury is often far more challenging. In the event that you have suffered an RSI in relation to your job, it is imperative that you contact an Rock Hill workers’ compensation lawyer today to discuss your legal options.
Repetitive Stress Injuries and South Carolina Workers’ Compensation
Benefits for on the job injuries in South Carolina are governed by the state’s Workers’ Compensation Code. Under the statutes, workers’ compensation benefits are only made available to qualifying victims. There are several different criteria that one must meet in order to qualify. One of the primary criteria is the injury in question must actually be related to the victim’s job. As a general rule, this certainly makes sense. After all, the entire purpose of workers’ compensation is to protect employees who have sustained workplace injuries, not simply any random injury. That being said, this can create major challenges for some injured workers. In particular, victims of repetitive stress injuries often face suspicion and push back from employers when they try to claim their entitled benefits. The simple fact is, when an injury occurs over a long period of time, it can be more difficult to link it to any specific cause. This makes it especially crucial for RSI victims to act quickly after their accident. Victims need to obtain supporting medical documentation that will help them connect their injury to their job-related activities. Ultimately, it is inherently difficult to prove that certain long-term injuries have a workplace cause. RSI victims need to protect their rights and financial interests by taking immediate action. If you have suffered a repetitive stress injury on the job in South Carolina, please do not hesitate to consult with an attorney.
Case Study: Pee v. AVM, Inc.
For many years, it was difficult for victims of RSIs to recover South Carolina workers’ compensation benefits at all. Though, the state’s Supreme Court brought some clarity to the issue in the case of Pee v. AVM, Inc. In this case, a South Carolina woman developed a debilitating hand injury after she spent many years performing repetitive tasks that were a required aspect of her employment. After receiving extensive medical evaluations, she was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, a relatively common type of repetitive stress injury. She applied for, and was initially awarded, workers’ compensation benefits. However, her employer decided to challenge her award. They made the argument that her injury was not sustained in any sort of accident and therefore could not be properly connected to her job as is required under South Carolina law. The Supreme Court reviewed the case and ruled in favor of the injured worker. In making their final decision, the court made it clear that work injuries do not need to stem from a single accident in order to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Instead, an injury must simply have a significant workplace cause. While the decision in this case was certainly welcome news for workers, it still must be noted that RSI victims still face major challenges when it comes to recovering the fair workers’ compensation benefits that they rightfully deserve.
What Benefits are Available for Victims?
Injured South Carolina workers may be entitled to several different types of workers’ compensation benefits. Specifically, RSI victims may be able to obtain benefits that cover:
- Medical expenses: If your medical treatment can be connected to your on the job injury, you should seek compensation. This is extremely important because medical bills can begin to pile up very quickly. Injured workers deserve timely treatment. Further, not only do workers often have a substantial amount of medical bills, but they may also require long-term care or rehabilitation services. Ultimately, all required medical treatment should be covered. Specifically, you may be able to seek coverage for: hospital bills, visits to a specialist, medical devices, medications and any necessary rehabilitation or support services.
- Lost income: South Carolina work injury victims may also be entitled to compensation for lost income. Your replacement income benefits will be paid at a level that is calculated using your pre-injury earnings. The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission requires that you fill out a form detailing pre-injury income in order to determine your specific benefits. It is critical that this form is filled out properly. Any mistakes could delay your benefits or possibly even get your claim denied. Typically, replacement income benefits are paid at a rate of two-thirds of the victims’ average weekly earnings. Though, there are also income caps which could limit lost income benefits for certain high-income employees.
- Disability: Finally, in a limited number of cases, injured workers may be entitled to seek permanent disability benefits. These benefits can last up to a total of 500 weeks. Cases involving disability are notoriously complex and victims should always seek assistance from an experienced attorney.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
At the Elrod Pope Law Firm, our experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys have extensive experience handling a wide variety of workplace injury claims, including those involving repetitive stress injuries. If you have been injured on the job, please do not hesitate to contact our office to schedule a free review of your case. Our firm has offices in Rock Hill and Lake Wylie, and we represent victims throughout the region.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.