THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM
PROVIDING AGGRESSIVE AND COMPASSIONATE LEGAL SERVICES TO INJURED WORKERS IN CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
Workers' Compensation law in South Carolina is primarily designed to provide injured workers benefits for lost wages due to time missed from work due to a work related injury and to provide temporary and/or permanent disability wage benefits for lost income due to a work related injury. So, when I am asked this question by a client at a consultation, I have to give the "depends" answer because each workers' compensation case is so fact specific.
The amount that a workers' compensation claim may be worth in Charleston, SC is dependent upon the following factors:
- What body parts were injured
- What is the impairment rating assigned to the injury
- What was the injured parties average weekly gross income at the time of injury
- How does the injury affect the person's ability to continue with his / her work
- What is the injured person's work and educational history
- Does the injured party have an transferable skills
- Will the injured party require future medical treatment
- How will future medical treatments be paid
HOW TO CALCULATE A WORKERS' COMPENSATION CLAIM
When I process in my mind the value of a workers' compensation claim, I literally go through the list of factors above like a grocery list and check them off one by one. The first item I must investigate is what body part was injured in the accident. The base for any formula to determine a workers' compensation claim value is to identify the injured body part. South Carolina law assigns a different amount of weeks for eligibility of payments to each imaginable part of the body. For example, a back injury is eligible for 300 weeks, and in the most serious cases 500 weeks, of benefit payment according to South Carolina law. In comparison, a leg is eligible for 195 weeks, and a thumb 65 weeks. So, the potential value of a claim is influenced by which body part is injured.
The second step is determining the value of a workers' compensation claim in South Carolina is identifying the impairment rating for the injury. Impairment is the determination of the permanent effect of the injury on your health and mobility, specifically to the injured body part.. Impairment ratings are determined by your treating physician(s) once you have reached maximum medical improvement (“MMI”). MMI is the point at which your doctor(s) state that your condition has stabilized and continued medical treatments will not bring about any further healing or rehabilitation. Basically, medical treatments have brought you as far back as you are going to make it.
So, how does identifying the injured body part and the impairment rating work together to help determine the value of your workers' compensation claim? Let's use an example to make this point: let's say you injured you back while at work. After treatments by your physician, you have reached MMI on your back and the doctor assigns you a impairment rating of 20%. Remember, that under South Carolina law, a back injury of this type would be eligible for a baseline of 300 weeks of benefits:
300 Weeks (SC Workers Comp Eligibility Period For A Back Injury) x .20 (20% impairment Rating) = 60 Weeks
Therefore, you would be entitled to 60 weeks of payments as part of your workers' compensation claim. Next question is of course "How much are the payments?" The next step is to determine the correct compensation rate for your case . . . how much do you make on your job(s). South Carolina workers' compensation law allow you to collect 2/3rds of your average gross income as part of your claim. Remember, this average should be the gross income to include base pay, overtime, and bonuses. Secondly, it is the gross income from all jobs. Therefore, if you are like many people here in the Charleston area, you may work a full time job and maybe work part-time on weekends at a retail store or in food service to help make ends meet. This income is included in this calculation.
So, for purposes of our example, let's say that you work a job and average a gross income of $600.00 per week. Lets do the math again in our example using the back injury we cited above:
$600.00 (Average Weekly Income) x .67 (2/3rds of Average Income) = $400.00
$400.00 (Workers Comp Compensation Rate) x 60 Weeks (Payment Period) = $24,000.00 (Total Wage Benefit)
The total lost wage benefit that you would receive as part of a Workers' Compensation settlement in South Carolina, under our example, is $24,000.00. You may be thinking that this would be the end of the analysis . . . ABSOLUTELY NOT, THERE IS MORE MATH THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE!
PAYMENT FOR RE-TRAINING AND EDUCATION
We also have to focus on what effects an injury would have on your ability to make a living going forward. The harsh reality is that the same injury can have vastly different effects on people who work in different careers. The best example I can give is by using a leg injury. As a lawyer, I could tear two ligaments in my knee and probably not miss a beat as a lawyer because of the nature of my job duties (talking, writing, reviewing documents, etc.). This same leg injury would be more devastating to someone who maybe worked in the service industry or in construction, where that person may be on their feet and moving about 10 hours a day.
This is where the need for identifying transferable skills of the injured party is necessary. The same injury has differing degrees or practical disability on different people. There may be a need to seek compensation for the injured party to receiving training for new skills or for a new trade. There is a value to this permanent effect upon someone's ability to earn a living in the future and this is addressed in a workers' compensation claim.
PAYMENT FOR FUTURE MEDICAL TREATMENTS
Many job related injuries just don't occur in a vacuum, where the injured party reaches MMI and then everything is hunky dory. Many injuries will require continued medical treatments for a term into the future. As part of any workers' compensation claim, the injued party will have to decide how they would like to be compensated for future treatments. The two options would be for the insurance carrier to make payments directly to your providers in the future as you are treated ("pay as you go"); or to accept the anticipated costs for these future medical treatments as a lump sum as part of the settlement of the case. The lump sum is referred to as the "clincher." The clincher is the tool that will pay the lump sum to the inured party and in return, the claim is released and closed out. It should be quite obvious that any agreement to accept a "clincher" has a value that must be compensated. The value of a clincher will depend upon the specific treatments that are recommended by your medical provider and for how long those treatments shall be needed.
THE MCMILLIAN LAW FIRM - WORKERS' COMPENSATION ATTORNEY SERVING CHARLESTON, SUMMERVILLE, MT. PLEASANT, BEAUFORT, AND ALL AREAS OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA LOW COUNTRY
As a Workers' Compensation lawyer in my solo practice, I will take all necessary steps to protect your rights and work to secure compensation for your injuries as a victim of a work related injury. Being a small firm allows you to have direct access to your lawyer during this entire process, with open lines of communication as we work together towards a viable solution to your specific case.
If you or a loved one has been injured at work in Charleston, Summerville, Mount Pleasant, James Island, West Ashley, Goose Creek, Moncks Corner, North Charleston, or any of the other fine communities of the Low Country, and need to meet with a Workers' Compensation lawyer, please contact me to set up your free case evaluation today. Let me help prevent you from being taken advantage of by the insurance company. I am serious and I am here for you! Contact The McMillian Law Firm today @ 843-900-1306