If you’ve suffered a work-related injury or illness, you may be wondering whether to hire a workers’ compensation attorney. The answer depends on the severity of your injury, the overall complexity of your case, and the actions of your employer or its insurance company. In South Carolina, the workers’ compensation system was designed to provide prompt and fair compensation to injured workers. But often times these days, the big workers compensation insurance companies have a long history of denying claims or neglecting the injured, all to protect the profits of their insurance company. The workers’ compensation system seems to work mostly for the benefit of employers and insurers if you are unrepresented. You need to understand that insurance companies have teams of highly trained lawyers on their side, even when you are without representation. If the insurance company is going to have a team of lawyers, shouldn’t you too?
As a general rule, you may be able to get by without an attorney if all of the following statements are true:
- You suffered a minor workplace injury, such as a twisted ankle or a cut requiring a few stitches.
- Your employer admits that the injury happened at work.
- You missed little or no work due to your injury.
- You don’t have a pre-existing condition that affects the same part of your body as the recent workplace injury (such as an old back injury from a car accident that was there before you slipped and hurt your back on the job).
Even in these uncomplicated and straightfoward claim, we would recommend that you contact our firm for a free consultation to make sure you are not missing something important. An attorney at the Goings Law Firm can walk you through the process, alert you to potential pitfalls, and give you an honest appraisal of whether you can handle the case on your own, or if hiring the Goings Law Firm would be in your best interest.
When and Why– Hiring a Workers Compensation Attorney
The moment any complexity arises in your case is the moment you should hire an attorney. Here are some examples of situations that call for a lawyer’s intervention:
- If you have had any hospitalization or surgery. If you have undergone surgery or a hospitalization for your work related injury, most of the time an attorney needs to help you on your claim. This is true 9.9 times out of 10!
- Your Employer denies your claim or doesn’t pay your benefits promptly. Employers and workers’ comp insurance companies routinely reject true workers’ comp claims, with the hope that many workers will fail to file the appropriate paperwork with the South Carolina workers’ compensation commission or go through the hassle of making a contested claim. The good thing is that hiring our firm to represent you costs nothing up front, and it gives you the best chance to receive a fair settlement or award for your injuries.
- Your employer’s settlement offer doesn’t cover all your missed time from work or medical bills. If you’re not sure a settlement offer is good enough, don’t rely on the attorney for the workers’ compensation carrier or the adjuster to make sure that you’re getting a fair deal. Anytime your settlement offer doesn’t cover all your missed time from work or medical bills, you need to consult with an experienced workers compensation attorney immediately.
- Your injuries or medical condition prevent you from returning to your prior job, limit your work abilities, or keep you from performing any work at all. If you’ve suffered any degree of permanent disability—partial or total—you may be entitled to weekly payments (or a single lump sum) to indemnify you for your injuries or for your loss wages. These cases can be very expensive for insurance companies, and they’ll often stop at nothing to avoid paying you what you deserve. A knowledgeable workers’ comp attorney at the Goings Law Firm has experience to get you the compensation you desire if your case involves permanent injuries or illness.
- Your Employer retaliates against you for filing a workers’ comp claim. If your employer has fired you, demoted you, slashed your hours, reduced your pay, or engaged in any other form of discrimination because you filed a workers’ comp claim, contact a workers’ comp attorney immediately to protect your legal rights. In addition to a workers’ compensation claim, your employer may be civilly liable for workers’ compensation retaliation.
- You were injured because of a third party’s actions. The workers’ comp system was designed to prevent civil lawsuits for work-related injuries. However, you are permitted to in civil court in certain situations, including when someone other than your employer contributed to your injury (such as reckless driver who hit you in your work vehicle or due to fall caused by a negligent landowner). If your on the job injuries were caused by a person or entity other than your employer, you may be able to obtain additional recovery in a third-party civil action. The Goings Law Firm always tries to go after any negligent third-party for additional compensation for any work related injury.
What Will Your Workers Compensation Attorney Do?
In addition to making sure you file all the necessary forms and meet the deadlines, an experienced attorney will know how to gather the evidence needed to support your case, negotiate effectively with the insurance company, and write a settlement agreement to avoid unanticipated consequences. If you can’t agree on a good settlement, an attorney can prepare for and represent you at the hearing or trial.
Don’t wait, contact us today for a free, no obligation consultation to better understand your legal rights for your on the job workers’ compensation injury. The number is (803) 350-9230, and ask to speak to one of our professionals!
On January 14, 2015, the South Carolina Supreme Court issued two opinions regarding Workers Compensation benefits. Generally, when a worker suffers an injury on the job, the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation system is designed to provide an injured employee with necessary medical treatment, disability payments, and monetary settlements to compensate for any physical impairment or disability.
Previously, defense attorneys for employers have argued that accidental falls are “idiopathic falls”- – a fall brought on by a personal condition unrelated to the employment. In these two recent cases, the supreme court determined that defense attorneys were incorrectly making this argument about idiopathic falls by interjecting fault into a no-fault system. With these two cases, the Supreme Court has issued a bright line rule- simply because a fall is an accidental on-on-the-job fall it is not automatically an idiopathic injury.
Nicholson v. South Carolina Department of Social Services (2015)
One of the cases, Nicholson v. South Carolina Department of Social Services (2015), involved an employee who was walking down a hallway to a meeting. The employee tripped as a result of friction on the carpet, and required treatment for injuries sustained to the neck and left shoulder. The Court addressed whether the injuries sustained by the fall arose out of the employee’s course of employment. The court found it was irrelevant that the injury could have happened just as easily outside of the workplace. Also, an employee injured on the job does not have to “prove the existence of a hazard or danger,” in order to be eligible for Workers Compensation benefits. In this case, the Court found that the Employee was entitled to workers compensation benefits.
Barnes v. Charter 1 Realty (2015)
In the second case addressed by the Court, the employee was an administrative assistant who was instructed to check an email before noon. The employee stumbled and fell while hurrying down the hall to check an e-mail. Originally, the Workers Compensation Comission denied the employee’s claim stating that the fall was “brought on by a purely personal condition unrelated to  employment.” The Supreme Court held that this finding was incorrect. The Court distinguished this case from cases with “personal conditions” such as “heart attack or seizure,” which “are generally noncompensable absent evidence the workplace contributed to the severity of the injury.” These instances are the result of an internal condition that is “personal to the employee.” The Court found that simply because an employee cannot “point to a specific cause of [the] fall” does not mean that she is not eligible for compensation benefits. “Whether [the employee] tripped because she was hurrying or she tripped over her own feet, neither is an internal breakdown” that would prevent recovery of eligible benefits from injuries sustained in the fall.
If you have been injured on the job, contact the Goings Law Firm, LLC today!
If you or a loved one has been injured in a work related accident, contact the Goings Law Firm, LLC today. There can be many complicated factual and legal questions that injured workers may face in trying to obtain benefits that are allowed under South Carolina Workers’ Compensation laws. Don’t go at it alone for your on-the-job injury, call at Robert F. Goings at (803) 350-9230. This S.C. Workers’ Compensation law firm is here to answer your questions today.
If your South Carolina Workers Compensation claim was denied, we encourage you to speak with a Columbia Workers Compensation Attorney as soon as possible. More than likely you will be required to request a hearing before the South Carolina Workers Compensation Commission in Columbia. We have been successful on many occasions having the Commission determine that the claim was wrongfully denied. Here are a few of common reasons that may be argued to deny your claim:
Common Reasons of Employers and Insurance Companies to Deny your Workers Compensation Claim:
- Missed deadlines — Your claim could be denied if you fail to notify your employer within 90 days of a workplace accident. You also have a short time period to file a claim. In certain cases, it may not be clear exactly when an injury develops, such as repetitive stress injuries (carpal tunnel syndrome) or chronic illnesses (continuous exposure to hazardous chemicals or asbestos-related diseases). Also, many employer may claim an injured worker is barred from benefits if they don’t report a work injury “within 24 hours” or some other period of time. If your employer claims you missed the deadline but you believe that there were special circumstances or that you actually did let your employer know on time, you should contact a workers’ compensation attorney for help in proving your claim.
- Improper Behavior or Failing to Follow Rules — Your employer may try to claim that you were negligent or did something wrong and that you should not receive workers comp benefits as a result. South Carolina workers compensation is a “no fault” system. It is a rare situation, where an employee is disqualified from receiving workers’ compensation benefits as a result of his or her own actions. Unless you intentionally hurt yourself or were intoxicated at work and the employer can prove that your intoxication was the cause of your work injury, you should not be disqualified based on your own actions, even if you were careless.
- “Off-the-job” injuries – In some cases, your employer might claim that your injury was not work-related and that you should not receive benefits as a result. If you were in the course and scope of your employment at the time of the work-related injury, then your claim may have been improperly denied. Under South Carolina workers’ comp laws, the definition of “work-related” injury is generally very broad, even if the injury happens outside of normal working hours or away from your normal job site.
- Not An Employee — Workers’ compensation benefits only applies to employees. Some employers will improperly classify workers as “independent contractors” or “subcontractors” instead of employees in order to avoid paying workers compensation benefits. Under the law, the determination of whether you were an employee focuses on the right to exercise control, how you were paid, furnishing of tools and equipment, and the right to fire. If you can prove facts sufficient to show that you were really an employee, then you could receive workers’ compensation benefits for your workplace injury.
- Pre-Existing Conditions — Employers sometimes deny claims based on the fact that you had a pre-existing condition when your work injury occurred. This is especially true in many back and neck injuries where individual often have natural degenerative changes. However, you can still receive benefits if your workplace accident aggravated or worsened your condition. Proving the extent of your work injuries and your right to benefits is complicated in these situations, so you should consult with a lawyer for help.
- Job Injury Not Correctly Reported — Your employer might argue that the injury did not happen as described. The employer and the insurance company will often assert that you are exaggerating your injury and will attempt to argue that your injury is not as severe as claimed. In many case, the employer tries to use the opinion of a doctor of its choosing to show that you are not entitled to receive the benefits, and in those circumstances, you may have the right to ask for an independent medical examination.
- For No Good Reason At All — It has been our experience that your workers compensation claim may be denied by the employer for no good reason at all, other than to demoralize you as an employee and to make you feel bad about pursuing your legal rights.
- Your Employment Application — Employers may argue that your claim should be denied because you did not correctly answer or fully disclose information on your pre-employment work application, such as your work history, prior injuries, or physical work restrictions.
Contact a Columbia Workers Compensation Attorney If your Claim was Denied.
If your workers compensation claim was denied, call this experienced Columbia Workers Compensation law firm today at (803) 350-9230 to speak with Attorney Robert F. Goings, or click here to fill out an online case evaluation form. There is no obligation or charge to see if we can help.