Should I Pursue a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
The short answer is yes. If you have been injured while performing your job duties, then you should probably pursue a workers’ compensation claim to get medical treatment you need to get better and the weekly compensation you will need while you are out of work. Workers’ compensation is a “no fault” system, which means benefits are usually paid without regard to who or what caused the injury. Most employers who have four or more employees are required to have workers’ compensation insurance. There are some employees, however, who are not covered including:
- Some real estate agents
- Some temporary/casual workers
- Employees of railroad and railway express companies
- Agricultural workers
- Corporate officers
- Federal employees working in South Carolina
Independent contractors are not covered but often their employees are. Filing a workers’ compensation is usually the fastest way to obtain the medical treatment and compensation you need when you have been injured and are unable to work.
Workers’ compensation is your exclusive remedy against your employer or a co-employee for an on the job injury, except in rare cases of an intentional injury. While workers’ compensation benefits are there when you need them, they are limited. Your employer gets to choose the doctor to treat your injuries. You are not entitled to your full lost wages but, generally, only two thirds of your average weekly wages. While you can receive an award for permanent disability, loss of use of a body part, or for permanent scarring, you cannot recover awards for pain and discomfort. Even if you are permanently disabled for the rest of your life, you can only collect up to 500 weeks or roughly 10 years of compensation, except in cases of quadriplegia, paraplegia or a physical brain injury.
What if you are on the job injury is caused by a third party?
If your on the job injury was caused by the negligence of a third party such as the manufacturer of a defective product or toxic chemical, the negligence of an independent contractor or the negligence of an employee of a subcontract on the job, you can sue the at-fault party for personal injury damages. For example, when an employee is involved in a car accident while performing services for their employer. Personal injury damages are not limited like workers’ compensation benefits and can include:
- Loss of future income for the rest of your expected work life;
- full lost wages;
- property damage or loss of use;
- damages for pain or discomfort and loss of the enjoyment of life; and
- punitive damages for willful or wanton misconduct.
Do I have to decide whether to recover workers’ compensation benefits or personal injury damages?
No, you may be able to recover both workers’ compensation benefits and still sue the at fault party for personal injury damages. The workers’ compensation statute allows you to file a claim for workers’ compensation and pursue the at fault party at the same time. If you recover from the at fault party you will be required to reimburse the employer for any workers’ compensation benefits that have been paid, less a fair share for attorney’s fees and costs. In some cases, the amount you have to pay the employer back can be reduced. There are procedures that have to be followed to recover both workers’ compensation and lawsuit damages. It is always best to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation and personal injury attorney at the Steinberg Law Firm to protect your rights.
What you need to do if you are injured at work
You should always report on the job injuries to your employer immediately, even if you do not think it is anything serious. Keep a record of who and when you reported your injury to. This protects your right to claim workers’ compensation benefits if it turns out you injury is more serious that you first thought. If you do not report an injury, you can lose your right to benefits. Once the employer has been reported, your employer has ten days to report it to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. You have two years to file an actual claim for benefits with the Commission.
Filing a workers’ compensation claim is complicated and can be confusing. The Steinberg Law Firm is here to assist you in navigating the workers compensation system and coordinating the benefits you are entitled to receive from workers’ compensation, personal injury lawsuits and disability insurance benefits to maximize your recovery. Having the right workers’ compensation law firm on your side goes a long way toward keeping you and your family financially stable. The Steinberg Law Firm has handled thousands of workers’ compensation cases. We are here to help you and the initial consultation is free. We’ve got your back.
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