Workers’ compensation is a “no–fault” system of compensating injured workers – you don’t have to prove that your employer was negligent. Contrary to popular belief, workers’ compensation laws were not created to help injured workers; they were created to protect employers from lawsuits from injured workers.
Generally, if you have been injured on the job, your employer must pay 2/3 of your average wages and for your medical treatment, until you reach “maximum medical improvement,” plus a scheduled amount for any permanent injury, up to a maximum of 500 weeks of compensation if you are totally disabled. In return, the worker cannot sue the employer and is not entitled to compensation for pain and suffering or any other traditional tort damages.
You should immediately report the injury to your supervisor. If you fail to report the injury within 90 days, your claim could be barred. Your employer has the right to select the doctor(s) to treat your injury, and any refusal could result in loss of compensation until you agree to accept the treatment. You must file a claim with the S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission within 2 years of the date of injury or your claim could be barred.
Even though workers’ compensation is a no–fault system, there are numerous legal traps for an inexperienced worker. The employer’s carrier may claim that the injury is not compensable (especially with injuries caused by repetitive trauma). Even though you cannot sue your employer, you may have a claim against a third party that caused your injury. An injury to one body part might affect other body parts, entitling the worker to higher compensation for loss of earnings, rather than the lower compensation provided by a “scheduled” injury.
The injury might render the worker permanently and totally disabled, but without an experienced workers’ compensation attorney, any social security benefits the worker may eventually receive will likely be offset by any workers’ compensation benefits. The representatives of the employer will not seek to maximize the benefits you receive, but our workers’ compensation attorneys will.