South Carolina workers’ compensation law provides a number of benefits, including: medical treatment; payment for time missed from work due to injury; and compensation for any permanent impairment or disability.When asked how much money someone should receive from his or her workers’ compensation case, the answer is always: it depends. The value or worth of most workers’ compensation settlements is based on:
- Impairment Rating;
- How the impairment effects the injured worker’s ability to earn a living;
- Work and educational history;
- Transferrable skills;
- How much money the injured worker was earning at the time of the accident;
- What body part or parts were injured;
- Whether future medical treatment is needed; and
- Whether the medical treatment will be left open.
Determing What Your Case Is Worth
Let’s look at these items one-by-one. First, impairment could be thought of as the permanent effect on physical health and mobility. For instance, if your shoulder was 100% before you tore your rotator cuff at work, it may only be 90% after surgery and physical therapy. You would therefore have 10% impairment to your shoulder. Impairment ratings are not issued until you have reached maximum medical improvement (“MMI”). MMI is the point at which your condition has stabilized. Your injury is not getting any worse but it will not ever get any better – it has plateaued. Thus, you have what is known as a permanent impairment.
Impairment has different effects on different people. For instance, in my job as a workers’ compensation lawyer, I could tear a ligament in my knee, sustain a 5% impairment, yet have no problem pushing papers, drafting documents, or standing up in court. Conversely, someone whose job requires heavy lifting, squatting, and carrying, could sustain the same injury and be unable to return to their former job. That is where work and educational history, along with transferrable skills. come into play. In this example, the heavy laborer would have a tougher time earning the wages after the injury as they did before. They would therefore have a great disability (i.e. inability to earn the same money as before the injury) than the lawyer whose torn ligament had no effect on earnings. Oftentimes, the greater the disability, the greater the settlement value.
The value of your workers’ compensation case is also influenced by which body parts you hurt. South Carolina workers’ compensation laws assign a specific number of weeks to most body parts. For instance, the shoulder is worth 300 weeks, the leg 195 weeks, but the thumb only 65 weeks. A 10% disability to the shoulder would be worth 30 weeks of compensation. A 10% disability to the thumb would only be worth 6.5 weeks. Thus, an injury to the shoulder is likely to result in far greater compensation than an injury to the thumb or hand.
What do I mean by 30 weeks? I mean you would multiply 30 by the compensation rate. What is the compensation rate? It is simply the amount of your weekly check. But where does that number come from? Your compensation rate (i.e. weekly check) is based on 2/3 of your average weekly wage at the time of injury. If you were making $600 before taxes prior to injury, your compensation rate would be $400 because $400 is 2/3 of $600.
Your workers’ compensation settlement is also influenced by whether you need any future treatment, and whether or not you are closing your case forever. If the insurance company wants to “clincher” your case they should pay for it. A clincher agreement takes them off the hook for any future medical treatment made necessary by a change in condition. That is valuable and should not be given to them for free. Furthermore, if the doctor has said you need additional medical treatment to remain at MMI, and the insurance company wants to clincher your case, they should pay the costs of the medical treatment you may need down the road.
Speak With A South Carolina Workers' Comp Lawyer Today
South Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws can be both confusing and frustrating. As a workers’ compensation lawyer based in Columbia, it is my privilege to help injured workers determine how much their case is worth, then fight to obtain a fair settlement for them. If you have questions or need help with your workers’ compensation case, request a free case evaluation and free copies of my books by calling 803-790-2800. You don’t have to take on the insurance company by yourself – I am here to help.