Get Answers to These FAQs We Hear the Most
We know how many questions you must have right now about your personal injury or workers' comp case, so we compiled this list of the questions we hear the most. If you have a question that is not answered here, please call our Columbia law office to speak with Kenneth Berger.
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What is My Impairment Rating Based On?
In South Carolina, the treating doctor will issue an impairment rating when you reach what is known as maximum medical improvement (MMI). Under our state's workers' compensation laws, the impairment rating is critical in determining the value of your case. Your rating is based on factors such as: whether you underwent surgery; loss of strength; decreased range of motion; and pain levels.
For instance, a shoulder surgery may leave you unable to lift, carry, or pull as much weight as before your injury. Likewise, you may not be able to extend your arms above your head due to the operation. Thus, even though the surgery may have been a success, you are still "impaired" with regard to the use and function of a specific body part.
Doctors should issue impairment ratings in accordance with guidelines handed down by the American Medical Association. Your doctor should also put you through a series of strength and flexibility tests before issuing a rating. If you have questions about the accuracy of your impairment rating or some aspect of workers' compensation in South Carolina, learn your rights. For a free case evaluation, call me today at (803) 790-2800.
Should I Sign the Lien Letter from Lexington Medical Center?
Lexington Medical Center ("LMC") is aggressive in its billing practices. The hospital often mails auto accident victims, and other injured people, what are known as "lien letters" or "letters of protection." LMC wants you sign these letters, promising to pay the hospital bill out of your settlement, possibly even before they file your bill with health insurance. They use a collections company called Medical Reimbursements of America to persuade - and sometimes frighten - injured people into signing away their rights.
So should you sign the lien letter from LMC or Medical Reimbursements of America? Probably not - at least not until all health insurance benefits have been exhausted. Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot put your health insurance benefits to use simply because you were involved in an accident. Request that LMC files your bill with health insurance before you sign any letter of protection. Likewise, if you want us to provide a free review of any documents the hospital or its collection agent has sent you, call us today at (803) 790-2800. We are here to make sure no one adds insult to your injury.
Who Pays the Cost of a Personal Injury Lawsuit in South Carolina?
The cost of a personal injury lawsuit often ranges from $1,000-$5,000. However, a complex case such as a medical malpractice or products liability suit might cost upwards of $100,000. So who pays these expenses? In South Carolina, the injured person’s lawyer usually advances the “litigation costs.” At the end of the case, those costs are subtracted from the client’s recovery. The only other options are for the client to pay along the way, or for the court to order the at-fault party to pay court expenses.
Most clients cannot afford to pay for experts, videotaped depositions, and other litigation costs – especially in light of the medical bills and lost wages they may be facing from the accident. For those reasons, I cover litigation expenses. I do not charge clients for postage, copies, mileage, or hourly work. At the end of the case, I am simply reimbursed for the checks I wrote to third parties on my client’s behalf. Additionally, if my firm doesn’t recover compensation on a client’s behalf, the client owes us nothing in fees or expenses.
If you are concerned about how much your personal injury lawsuit will cost you, don’t be. Call us today for a free consultation at (803) 790-2800. While my office is located in Columbia, we help people across South Carolina.
Can I Get Punitive Damages Under SC Law If I Was Injured By a Driver Who Was Texting?
In South Carolina, punitive damages may be awarded if the at-fault driver was reckless or in violation of a statute. Texting and driving may not be prohibited by statute, but it certainly qualifies as reckless. I have represented a number of people - including soldiers, mothers, and children - who were injured in rear-end collisions because someone else chose to text and drive. We sought punitive damages in all those cases, and will continue to do so anytime someone decides to drive while texting.
Common sense, as well as the law of negligence, requires a driver to watch the road and see what is there to be seen. When someone chooses to look down at their phone rather than watching the road in front of them, they are making a conscious choice to endanger whoever is in their path. These choices are nothing if not reckless.
If you want help seeking punitive damages because you were hurt by a driver who chose to text and drive in South Carolina, call me today at (803) 790-2800.
In South Carolina, Does Workers' Comp Pay For the Costs of My Future Medical Treatment?
South Carolina Workers’ Compensation law requires the insurance company to provide payment for the costs of future medical treatment arising from your on the job injury. When your treating doctor concludes that you are not getting any better or any worse, but have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), he/she will give an opinion as to whether or not you need additional treatment. Oftentimes, the doctor’s opinion as to future medical care is listed on his/her progress note or release to work form. In other instances, the treating doctor will complete what is known as a Form 14-B, on which the doctor will state whether you have additional medical needs. For example, your doctor may say you need further injections, anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, or even surgery.
Your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier then has a decision to make. They can “leave the medicals open” and pay for your future treatment as needed, or they can “clincher” your claim. A clincher agreement means that instead of paying for future doctors’ visits and treatment, the insurance carrier pays you more money up front. In return for paying you more money on the front end, they get to close (i.e. clincher) the case.
Injured workers with health insurance, and whose medical needs are relatively limited, often choose to clincher their claim and get more money on the front end. Conversely, injured workers who do not have health insurance, and may require significant future care, probably benefit from leaving the medicals open and allowing the workers’ compensation carrier to pay for their treatment.
If you have questions about the compensation you should receive for future medical costs arising from a South Carolina workers’ compensation claim, I am here to help. Call us today at (803) 790-2800.
Can I Receive Workers' Comp for Carpal Tunnel in South Carolina?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is often the result of repetitive trauma. In South Carolina, you can receive workers’ compensation benefits for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome if we establish that it is related to your job. For instance, a machine operator and administrative workers often perform the same function over and over. Whether it is testing a product, making sure a machine is functioning properly, or using a keyboard for hours on end, the repetitive trauma to your hands, wrist, and elbow can result in CTS. Some doctors take the position that keyboard use does not cause CTS. I believe those doctors are wrong.
If you think that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is related to your work duties, you must report the injury to your employer within 90 days. More specifically, you only have 90 days from the time you first believe your pain to be work- related to report the pain/injury to a supervisor. If you do not meet this notice requirement, you cannot receive workers’ compensation benefits even if a doctor relates CTS to your work duties.
Unlike the insurance company – or even the doctor – my firm is here to help you recover workers’ compensation benefits for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Be it a free consultation, a free copy of my books, or representing your interests and protecting your rights, please know that if you have questions, I am here to answer them. Email or call me today at (803) 790-2800. While our office is in Columbia, South Carolina, we handle workers’ compensation cases across the state.
Do I Continue to Receive My SC Workers' Comp Check After the Doctor Releases Me to Light Duty?
When a doctor releases an injured worker in South Carolina to light duty, the employer is given the opportunity to accommodate the physical restrictions. However, if the employer cannot offer light duty work within the prescribed restrictions, the employee will continue receiving a weekly workers' compensation check.
For instance, if you underwent shoulder surgery and have been released to light duty with a restriction of no lifting greater than 5 pounds, your employer may either provide light duty work or allow you to continue receiving a weekly check.
In many cases, someone will return to light duty, yet not make as much money as they did before the injury. When this happens, you are entitled to 2/3s of the difference between your pre and post-accident wages. This situation may arise due to a reduction in your number of hours (e.g. no overtime) or a decrease in your hourly pay. Regardless of the circumstances, you should receive a weekly check for 2/3s of the difference in earnings.
Should your employer be able to accommodate the physical restrictions your doctor prescribed, you are required to return to work or risk forfeiting your workers' compensation benefits. Most injured people grow tired of being out of work and look forward to returning to their job.
In sum, if your doctor has placed you on light duty, and you have questions about your South Carolina workers' compensation benefits, I am here to help. Call me today at 803-790-2800.
How Much Money Should Workers' Comp Pay You for an On the Job Brain Injury in South Carolina?
On the job brain injuries are a common occurrence in Columbia and other parts of South Carolina. When an employee sustains a head injury, the first concern is proper medical treatment and payment for time missed from work. Employees and their families also want to know how much money they should receive from workers' compensation at the end of the case.
In cases of severe, life-altering brain injuries, an injured worker may be entitled to benefits for the rest of his or her life. Put differently, if the traumatic brain injury (TBI) will prevent the individual from ever working again, the workers' compensation insurance company will likely have to provide lifetime benefits.
In cases where an employee sustains a head injury at work, but will be able to return to the job in a matter of weeks or months, the insurance company will still be responsible for all medical treatment related to the TBI, though the amount of compensation they have to pay for any permanent injury to the brain will be between 0-250 weeks (i.e. up to 250 x the amount of your weekly workers' compensation check).
If you have questions about workers' comp or the benefits you should be receiving, call my Columbia office at 803-790-2800. I handle brain injury cases throughout South Carolina, and would be honored to answer your questions.
What Tests Should Be Performed When Someone Sustains a Brain Injury From a Car Accident?
Brain injuries - often called concussions or closed head injuries - are a frequent consequence of car accidents. In South Carolina, and throughout the country, basic tests such as CT scans, are often done at the hospital. CT scans check for injuries such as a fractured skull or brain bleed (i.e. intracranial hemorrhage). Most of these tests come back normal. In the event of a normal CT, what else should be done?
The ER doctor will generally instruct patients who have sustained a concussion to follow up with their primary care doctor. The primary care doctor will in turn refer the patient to a neurologist should symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, or memory loss persist.
The first tests neurologists order are often an MRI and EEG. These tests check your brain activity. Much like CT scans, MRIs and EEGs may come back "normal" even though the patient with the closed head injury knows something is not right.
If you continue to experience headaches, changes in attitude, memory loss, or any other problem for more than several weeks after your car accident, you should ask your neurologist to consider more advanced testing. Tests such as Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) and Susceptibility Weighted Imaging (SWI) are able to reveal injuries to the brain that traditional imaging misses.
We focus on helping people who have suffered brain injuries from car wrecks in South Carolina, and want you to consider us a resource in finding the right doctors, tests, and treatment. We have seen far too many people get released by their neurologist simply because the MRI came back negative. If "something has been different since the accident," and you find yourself in need of answers and direction, call me today at (803) 790-2800.
What Happens if My Company Terminates Me While I am Out on Workers' Comp in South Carolina?
Many people fear they will get fired if they pursue a workers’ compensation case in South Carolina. Other people are concerned that their boss will simply "let them go" if they can’t work because of the injury. In either situation, South Carolina law protects your rights. First, you cannot be legally terminated as punishment for seeking workers’ compensation benefits. Second, the law states that your employer must either accommodate your physical restrictions or provide you a weekly check should the work injury prevent you from performing full duty.
If a doctor puts physical restrictions on you (i.e. places you on light duty), your boss can either comply with the restrictions or have their insurance company send you a weekly check. In the event your company "let’s you go" while you are out on workers’ comp, they will have to provide you with weekly checks until a doctor releases you from his/her care.
In sum, please know that your workers' compensation benefits continue even if your boss fires you during the pendency of your claim. With that said, I strongly encourage you to be a model employee. You do not want to give your employer any excuse to let you go, or any evidence of insubordination. Should you have other questions about your rights under South Carolina's workers’ compensation system, call me at (803) 790-2800.