In South Carolina, employers are required to provide workers’ compensation benefits for employees injured while on the job. This compensation is intended to assist in paying for medical bills and missed time at work.
While workers’ compensation is often seen as a protected right, there are many circumstances under which compensation is denied. If you have received a denial, then you should note that an appeals process is available for you to fight the initial decision.
There are four basic steps involved in the appeals process.
Request a Hearing
If you receive a denial, then your first course of action should be to file a request for a hearing. This hearing is a formal process that aims to resolve any disputes between yourself, your employer and your employer’s representative.
In order to request a hearing, you can either both contact the Workers’ Compensation Commission of South Carolina directly and request a form, or you can obtain the form on the official WCC website.
Your hearing will be overseen by a single commissioner, who will hear your case, resolve disputes and determine whether you should be approved for benefits.
If you receive a positive outcome, the process ends. If not, the next step comes into play.
Appeal to the Full Commission
The next level of appeal involves filing a request for commission review. You should note before taking this step that it can be expensive. The filing fee is $150 — and that fee may be increased if the commission finds you lacked solid reasoning for bringing the case forward.
The decision made in this case is called an “award.” You will receive an award notification, along with legal rulings that detail the findings of your case.
In the vast majority of situations, whether the claim has been approved or denied, the process ends after this step. But, in rare cases, injured employees may choose to take their claim to the next level.
The South Carolina Court of Appeals
At this point, you will be required to file an official lawsuit with the South Carolina Court of Appeals. You will have thirty days from the date of your award notification.
In your filing, you must state your reasoning for the appeal and explain why you believe the decision is incorrect. This is rarely done without the assistance of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney, who can help put your case into legal terms.
During this time, your employer is still required to pay you weekly cash benefits and medical care — but only while the appeal is pending.
The South Carolina Supreme Court
If you lose in the South Carolina Court of Appeals, then you need to make a decision about whether to move forward. Legal battles can be costly, and you should closely consider the details of your case with the assistance of an attorney.
Should you choose to move forward, you will file an appeal to the South Carolina Supreme Court. It is important to note that not all appeals are heard, as the court has the right to choose which cases it will preside over.
Contact an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney for Assistance
Are you dealing with a denial of your workers’ compensation benefits? The time has come to fight for the assistance you deserve. For representation, contact our team of South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers at The Law Offices of F. Craig Wilkerson Jr. by calling (803)-324-7200.
Although workplace injuries can occur in virtually any industry, some occupations are more dangerous than others. Here are the top six most dangerous industries for workers in the United States according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2015 report on nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses. Do you or a loved work in one of them?
Forestry and Logging
For decades, logging and forestry has consistently been reported as one of the top industries in the country for worker fatalities – and in 2015, 132.7 per 100,000 workers were killed due to a work injury. Loggers and forestry workers are particularly vulnerable to fatal workplace injuries due to their work in rough terrain and in rural areas with few medical resources.
Agriculture, Fishing, and Hunting
Closely following the forestry and logging industry is the agricultural industry, including fishing, and hunting. Though the high risk of these professions may be initially surprising, studies show that approximately 100 agriculture workers are seriously injured every day and nearly 400 workers die each year due to an agricultural workplace injury.
Transportation and Warehousing
Transportation and warehousing account for over seven million jobs, and they also account for a large percentage of workplace injuries and fatalities. In 2015, 201,600 transportation and warehousing workers were injured and 799 were killed in work-related accidents. The most dangerous jobs within this industry are couriers with 6.8 injuries per 100 workers, followed by air transportation workers with 5.8 injuries per 100 workers, then by warehousing and storage workers with 4.9 injuries per 100 workers.
Health care is another industry with a surprisingly high number of workplace injuries. Every day, healthcare workers deal with hazards such as radioactive material, bloodborne pathogens, waste anesthetic gas, and chemicals such as formaldehyde, ethylene oxide and peracetic acid. Because of these hazards, 4.3 healthcare workers out of 100 were injured in 2015. Caregivers at nursing homes and residential care facilities are even more at risk with 6.8 injuries per 100 workers, closely followed by hospital workers with six injuries per 100 workers.
Heavy machinery, hazardous substances and high physical demands can make the manufacturing industry an unsafe work environment. In 2015, 466,500 manufacturing workers were injured on the job. Wood product manufacturing workers are injured at the highest rate with 5.9 injuries per 100 workers.
Though retail jobs do not typically involve hazardous substances or heavy machinery, the retail industry has a surprisingly high rate of workplace injuries and illnesses, with 3.5 injuries per 100 workers in 2015. Most of these injuries are not the result of a sudden accident or mistake, but rather sprains, pain, soreness and carpal tunnel syndrome due to overexertion and repetitive movements.
Do You Need a Worker’s Compensation Accident Lawyer in South Carolina?
Many of us are living paycheck to paycheck. Now, imagine that you are severely injured at work. You may have savings that you can utilize for a short while; however, it is likely that it will not sustain your family for long. Therefore, we have Workers’ Compensation. Workers’ Compensation is a benefit that is in place to protect individuals who are injured at work. Workers’ Compensation provides medical and wage benefits to those who are injured at work or who become ill in the course of their work.
The basic requirement for Workers’ Compensation is for an injury or illness to have a direct tie to the workplace and/or job-related duties. In general, an employee with a work-related illness or injury can get Workers’ Compensation benefits regardless of who was at fault, although there are some limits to this discussed in the coverage section below.
It is not a requirement for all employers to have Workers’ Compensation coverage. State laws vary, but an employer’s responsibility to provide coverage usually depends on how many employees it has, what type of business it is, and what type of work the employees are doing. Certain types of employees are often excluded from Workers’ Compensation coverage, for example farm workers or seasonal workers do not often qualify for Workers’ Compensation coverage. Also, independent contractors often do not qualify for Workers’ Compensation coverage.
What does Worker’s Compensation cover?
Workers’ Compensation pays for medical treatment and loss of wages that result from a work-related injury or illness. Here are some examples of what Workers’ Compensation does cover:
Injuries that occur while performing your line of work. Even if you are traveling for businesses and outside of your regular workplace, if you are traveling as a requirement for your work and injured then Workers’ Compensation benefits could apply. The important factor here is if you were performing work-related duties.
Injuries that are caused by the aggravation of a pre-existing injury while performing work duties.
Injuries that are instigated from overuse or misuse of a body part at work over a long period of time, such as repetitive stress injuries or chronic back problems
Illness that occurs at work only if a medical expert confirms that the workplace did in fact cause the illness. Some examples of possible illnesses that are the gradual result of work conditions include heart conditions, lung disease, and stress-related digestive problems.
Mental stress caused by work only if the mental stress is directly linked to the workplace (i.e. extraordinary workplace conditions). It is very difficult to prove that the mental stress is directly linked to the workplace and as a result mental stress is the most difficult type of injury/illness for which employees receive compensation.
We have covered some of what Workers’ Compensation does cover, now here is a list of what Workers’ Compensation does not cover:
Injuries that occur because an employee is intoxicated or under the influence of illegal drugs
Self-inflicted injuries, including those caused by a person who starts a fight at the workplace
Injuries that occur while the employee is committing a crime
Injuries that occur while the employee is not working and is not engaged in work-related duties
Injuries that occur when an employee is in direct violation of company policy
Injuries that happen on the commute to or from work, when the employee is not performing any work-related duties
When Should I apply for Workers Compensation?
Speed is a necessity for any Workers’ Compensation issue. If you are injured on the job you should notify you employer immediately; we recommend that you provide notice in person and in writing. An employee has a limited number of days to report the injury and collect benefits. If there is a delay in reporting the issue, then there will be a delay in filing for compensation benefits – a delay may create confusion over the legitimacy of the claim.
Reporting of the injury may be more difficult for cumulative injuries or illnesses. In general, we recommend that you advise your supervisor of any short-term pains/illnesses that may be a result of work. We recommend that you log these discussions. Also, meet with your medical provider regularly to discuss your work-related concerns and any minor problems that they may be creating for your body. Minor problems (such as wrist pains) can turn into major problems (such as carpal tunnel).
A typical Workers’ Compensation claims process is as follows:
Employee files a claim with the employer
Employee is referred to an approved physician for evaluation and treatment
Insurance company investigates and makes a determination of benefits
At this point, the employee should be notified of claims approval as well as the extent of medical and financial assistance available. The employee has the right to dispute a Workers’ Compensation approval and can request a hearing. This often occurs if an employee does not agree with the type, amount, or duration of benefits that were approved. There are different avenues to explore if you do not agree with your Workers’ Compensation benefits, including mediation, hearings, and appeals. It is advisable to speak with an attorney who will be able to determine which procedures apply to you.
Often, a Workers’ Compensation claim is stalled or denied. This can create additional stress for the injured as there is no progress toward replacing lost wages that resulted from the workplace illness or injury. Insurers may stall or deny a claim if:
Injury or illness did not occur on the job
Suspicion of fraud
Claim was not filed in a timely manner
Employee did not follow through with a physical examination in a timely manner
Insufficient evidence to tie the injury/illness to workplace duties
Do I Need a Workers Comp Lawyer?
The Workers’ Compensation law in South Carolina was revised on July 1, 2007. It is a comprehensive law that changes many of the previous statutes and common law. It may be particularly important to contact a Workers’ Compensation attorney about your Workers’ Compensation case due to the many new standards and proofs that must be met to successfully prevail in a Workers’ Compensation case. Workers’ Compensation Attorneys help employees to navigate the laws; build their case; determine appropriate compensation; and then fight for that fair compensation.
If you are having problems getting Workers’ Compensation benefits, consult with an attorney who is experienced in disputing Workers’ Compensation claims and who will fight for your rights. A Workers’ Compensation attorney is best qualified to resolve the dispute and get you the medical and financial assistance that is lawfully yours.
If you have suffered any injury or illness as a result of work, please contact the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation lawyers at the Law Offices of F. Craig Wilkerson Jr. Our expert knowledge in matters of Workers’ Compensation will help you receive all the benefits you are entitled to under the law. Schedule a free consultation or call 803-324-7200.
South Carolina contains nearly five million acres of farm land, broken down into more than 25,200 farms. The average size of a farm in our state is 197 acres. With this much farm land, it isn’t surprising that accidents occur and, in 2015, an average of six out of every 100 agriculture workers were injured on the job. That same year, 401 farmers and farm workers were killed due to a workplace injury. Many of these injuries and fatalities are the result of the following agricultural workplace hazards.
Accidents involving farm vehicles such as tractors, harvesters and ATVs are the largest cause of death for farmers and farmworkers. In 2011, farm vehicle accidents caused nearly half of the 570 agricultural worker fatalities. To prevent injury while working in a motor vehicle, always wear your seatbelt whenever there is a risk of overturning. Make sure that there are no large items in the cab that could come loose if the vehicle tips. If the vehicle does tip over, stay inside. Trying to jump clear of an overturning farm vehicle is one of the most common causes of farmworker death. When you need to leave the vehicle, make sure you stop safely: turn on the handbrake, put controls in neutral, turn off the engine and remove the keys.
Other Equipment and Machinery
Power tools and other equipment and machinery used on a farm can be just as dangerous as vehicles. You should be thoroughly trained before you use any machine or power tool. Always wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPEs) while operating heavy machinery and never wear clothing that is baggy or has loose ends that could get caught in rotating parts. If a machine is blocked or jammed, do not try to remove the blockage until the machine is turned off and all moving parts are still.
Pesticides and Other Chemicals
Exposure to pesticides can lead to short-term and long-term illnesses. Even the family members of pesticide handlers can be affected by pesticides if workers accidently take home traces of the contaminant. To avoid the negative effects of pesticide contamination, be sure to wear appropriate PPEs when working in treated fields. Before eating, move to a nontreated area and wash your hands.
Due to the bending, lifting and repetitive motions involved in farm work, musculoskeletal injuries such as tendonitis, rotator cuff injuries and muscle strains are very common in the agricultural industry. The best way to prevent these work-related injuries is to act sooner rather than later. Use ergonomically designed tools and equipment whenever possible and use proper lifting techniques. If you start to notice any symptoms of a musculoskeletal injury, report them to your supervisors immediately before your condition worsens.
Grain Bins and Silos
Farmworkers are killed every year through engulfment and suffocation in grain bins and silos. Workers can be trapped under grain if unloading equipment begins filling the bin while workers are inside. Never enter grain bins while unloading equipment is running. If the bin uses automatic unloading equipment, be sure to lock the control circuit before entering the bin. Whenever you must work in a grain bin under uncertain conditions, have at least one other person on site and wear a body harness that can withstand up to 5,400 pounds of stress.
Do You Need a Worker’s Compensation Accident Attorney in South Carolina?
Nearly half of all logging and forestry injuries occur to workers with less than one year of experience on the job, so implementing a comprehensive safety training program for new employees is critical to workplace safety. Any new or experienced employees assigned to new tasks, tools or equipment must be trained appropriately before starting work. Employers must also hold regular safety meetings with each employee at least once a month to monitor safety practices and address concerns. If you’re employed in this industry, is this happening in your workplace?
Maintain and Repair Equipment Properly
For companies with fully mechanized logging procedures, workplace injuries occur most often during equipment maintenance and repair. Put in place a regular maintenance schedule for all equipment to prevent dangerous malfunctions. Before performing repairs or maintenance, turn off the equipment make sure all moving parts have stopped. When repairing logging machines, use the three-point mount and dismount to avoid slips and trips. Employees, is this the procedure at your job?
Use Personal Protective Equipment
Wearing personal protective equipment (PPEs) is one of the best ways to prevent a workplace injury. Always use the appropriate PPEs when you’re on the job:
Hard hats protect you from head injuries due to a fall or falling objects.
Logger boots with good tread help you maintain your balance and prevent slips and falls.
Gloves help you keep a firm grip on tools and logs, keep your hands protected from inclement weather, and shield against cuts and scrapes.
Safety glasses protect your eyes from sawdust and other foreign objects.
Use Safe Tree Felling Practices
Accidents that occur while cutting trees with a chainsaw make up 60 percent of overall logging and forestry accidents. Stay safe when manually felling trees by planning before acting. Consider the tree’s natural falling direction, safe directions of fall, weather conditions, and how much hinge wood will be necessary to guide the fall. Always map out an escape route for all loggers before cutting. While cutting the tree, be sure to make a proper notch and hitch and protect the hinge during the back cut. If there are power lines near the tree, always assume that they are active. Do not cut trees within 10 feet of a power line unless you are a trained line clearance trimmer.
Maintain Physical and Mental Health
The many dangers in logging and forestry mean that loggers must be physically and mentally healthy at all times during the work day. Take care of your mind and body by staying hydrated, getting enough sleep and eating regularly. If you suspect that you might be distracted by personal problems or health issues, explain to your supervisor that it would be unsafe for you to perform certain job duties. Remember that no job is more important than your life and safety.
Do You Need a Worker’s Compensation Accident Attorney in South Carolina?
Warehouse workers face a higher-than-average rate of nonfatal workplace injuries. In fact, in 2015, 38,400 warehouse workers were injured on the job. It’s important to keep yourself safe at work by learning about some of the most common hazards faced along with how to prevent them.
Warehouse workers can receive chemical burns if hazardous materials are spilled or not properly labeled. Employers are required keep a list of all hazardous chemicals used in the workplace and label all containers of hazardous substances with the product identity and hazard warning. Check the workplace list regularly for updates and make sure you understand the hazards of all substances listed. Store chemicals away from forklift traffic to avoid a spill. If you do see a chemical spill, clean it up as soon as possible while wearing correct personal protective equipment such as safety shoes, gloves and glasses.
Improper Vehicle Operation
Forklift accidents kill approximately 85 workers per year and seriously injure 30,000. Avoid a workplace accident by always wearing your seatbelt while operating a forklift. Before loading a forklift, check its maximum load weight and don’t exceed it. Spread the forks as wide as the load allows for added stability. While carrying the load, keep the load low and tilted back. Keep your entire body inside the forklift and never reach outside to adjust the load.
Musculoskeletal and Back Injuries
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a huge problem for warehouse workers. They experience 80 MSDs per 10,000 full-time workers, twice the average rate for private industries. Many aspects of warehouse work can increase a worker’s chances of developing an MSD: repetitive or prolonged actions, lifting, pushing and pulling heavy objects, and extreme temperatures.
Warehouse workers can take these steps to prevent MSDs:
Maintain neutral posture as often possible. Neutral posture means standing so that a straight line can be drawn from your ear to your shoulder, hip, knee and ankle. While sitting, keep your back straight, knees bent at a 90-degree angle and feet flat on the floor.
Avoid unnecessary repetition. Using the same muscles in the same way over and over can lead to stress and injury. Avoid repetition in your workday by breaking up your more repetitive tasks. Spend 20 to 30 minutes on one job, then take a break or switch to another job that requires a different set of movements.
Avoid reaching. Repetitive reaching or outstretching your arms can be especially harmful, so arrange your workspace to minimize the need for reaching. Put heavy objects and objects that you use most often closer to you to avoid unnecessary reaching and lifting.
Lift properly. Back injuries are the top reason for warehouse worker’s compensation claims. Before lifting an object, think about how much it weighs, where you need to carry it and any potential hazards in your way. Then, position yourself with your feet straddling the object with one foot slightly in front of the other. Bend your knees, not your back, and grab the load. Lift by straightening your knees while bringing the object as close to your body as possible. Do not twist your body while lifting or carrying a heavy load.
Do You Need a Worker’s Compensation Accident Lawyer in South Carolina?
It’s the holiday season, with stores often being packed with shoppers. Although this is great for a company’s bottom line, it can create hazards for retail workers, and Workers’ Compensation Watch points out several of them.
First, retail workers might find themselves scheduled to work an overnight shift, and the National Institutes of Health found that injury risk is actually 30 percent higher when someone is working overnight, rather than a day shift. Then there is overtime. With so many shoppers in line, retail workers may work overtime hours, and a British study showed that injuries rose exponentially each hour past the standard eight. This can also be an issue when a fulltime employee takes on a part-time retail job during the holidays, thereby working longer days.
As another article from the same publication points out, one study showed that temporary employees are two to three times as likely to be injured at work. Another company discovered that 65 percent of lost-time injuries happened within the first quarter year of employment.
Dealing with Holiday Stress
Extended hours and long lines can add stress to a retail worker’s like, especially during the busy holidays that come with its own stressors. If you’re in that situation, here are tips from EHSToday.com to help you deal with the stress.
Although this tip isn’t first in their list, it’s important. If a customer is difficult for no reason, it’s not your fault. Don’t take it personally. If there is a line, smile at the people waiting but stay focused on your current customer. Wear comfortable shoes and clothing, get your own shopping done early, and remember that this income is what helps you to provide for your own family’s holiday celebrations.
Need a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney?
If you are injured at work, you are typically covered under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation law. This type of law differs significantly from negligence actions – and, in fact, it’s possible for have both claims – workers’ compensation and negligence/tort – from the same incident. You can find answers to plenty of your questions on the subject here. On that same page is a form where you can fill out a request for our workers’ compensation lawyers to review your case.