When filing a workers’ compensation claim, the injured employee does not need to prove negligence or fault as they would in a civil lawsuit. This is because South Carolina’s workers’ compensation system operates as a no-fault system under the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law. However, injured workers still need to prove several matters before they can receive workers’ compensation benefits. For example, the worker must prove that they had an employer-employee relationship with their employer at the time of the accident, that the injury occurred in the course of their work, and that they notified their employer of the injury within the required timeframe. The key to proving these things is documentation. An injured employee who has meticulously documented every step of their injury has a much better chance of being approved for workers’ compensation benefits than another employee who suffered the same injury but who did not document diligently. This article briefly outlines the types of evidence that can be helpful to have when claiming workers’ compensation benefits, and provides tips that can be followed to help ensure that your claim is documented as fully as possible.
The most prudent thing to do when documenting a workers’ compensation claim is to get your hands on as much relevant evidence that supports your claim as possible. With that said, evidence that is often useful to injured workers seeking workers’ compensation benefits include:
- Medical Records: Medical records, from both before and after your injury, will likely be the most important evidence that you will have in support of your claim. These records can demonstrate what part of your body was injured, how severe a medical professional assessed your injury to be, and what course of treatment was prescribed to you.
- Independent Medical Examinations: Independent medical examinations are generally conducted when there is a dispute about your medical condition and the insurance company would like a second opinion. However, an injured worker’s attorney may also request an independent medical examination in order to counter a different doctor’s assessment of the injury.
- Accident Reports: If your employer or the police wrote up an accident report in connection with your injury, their report can be very helpful when establishing where and when your injury occurred.
- Employment Records: In order to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in South Carolina, the injured worker and their employer must have had an employer-employee relationship when the injury occurred. Employment records can help establish that the worker was in fact an employee rather than some other type of worker, such as an independent contractor.
- Witness Statements: Witness statements from coworkers or other individuals who were there when your injury occurred can be very helpful to your claim.
- Medical Receipts: Medical receipts are essential for proving how much an injured worker has paid out-of-pocket to treat their work-related injury. Medical receipts can range from hospital bills to over the counter medications.
Tips for Fully Documenting Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
Fully documenting a workers’ compensation claim takes time but is well worth the effort. Evidence comes in many forms, and while people tend to remember to document their medical bills, other forms of evidence, for example notes from phone conversations with your doctor, are often overlooked. The idea is to document everything related to your injury in order to make it as easy as possible to show that you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. By following the few tips listed below you will help put yourself in the best position possible to document that you are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
- Tip #1 – Timing is Crucial – Document Early and Often: As time passes, memories fade, details become confused, and critical evidence can be lost. Therefore, it is a good idea to take notes as soon as possible and to ask witnesses for their statements without delay.
- Tip #2 – Get Everything in Writing: Written documentation is your best friend when filing a workers’ compensation claim, so be sure to get relevant evidence in writing. This is particularly helpful when relying on witness statements. For example, when you are trying to prove that your accident occured while at work, if can be very helpful to have statements from a few coworkers who work with you and witnessed your accident. It is often vital to have these witness statements written down, and preferably notarized as well.
- Tip #3 – Label All Submitted Documents: When submitting documents related to your workers’ compensation claim to either your employer or South Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Commission, be sure to carefully label each document in case one accidentally gets misplaced. It is recommended to label each document with your name, Social Security number, your employer’s name, the date of your injury or illness, and the name of the relevant insurance carrier.
- Tip #4 – Keep Copies of All Documents for Your Personal Records: Keep copies of every document that you submit in case either your employer or the insurance company requests another copy. Also, be sure to make copies of any workers’ compensation checks that you receive before you deposit them.
- Tip #5 – Keep All Medical Related Receipts: If your workers’ compensation claim is approved, you will generally be reimbursed for any out-of-pocket medical expenses that you have already paid for. Therefore, in order to ensure that you are fully reimbursed, make sure to keep all of your medical related receipts. For example, this can include receipts for necessary prescription medications, over the counter medications, painkillers, and the expense of traveling to and from doctor appointments.
Speak to a Legal Expert
A competent workers’ compensation attorney can help you gather and document relevant evidence throughout every step of the claims process. If you have been injured while working in South Carolina and are wondering if you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, contact the Elrod Pope Law Firm to discuss your legal options. Our South Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys would be happy to meet with you during a free consultation at our office in either Rock Hill or Lake Wylie.
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.