The Workers' Compensation Act in South Carolina provides that if an employee suffers injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment, that individual is entitled to recover medical expenses, temporary total compensation for lost time, and permanent disability benefits if he/she suffered any permanent injury as a result of the work accident.
Under the current law your employer has the right to select the doctor who will treat you. If you go to see your own doctor without permission of the employer, the employer may not be held liable for the medical expense, unless it constitutes an emergency condition. However, you have the right to choose a physician to evaluate you for the specific disability but it will not be covered by the employer.
Once you suffer an injury on the job you should immediately report it to your supervisor. You should also request that the employer be responsible for the appropriate medical treatment. In the event the claim is denied, you can attempt to handle the case yourself or you may hire an attorney.
If the claim continues to be contested, or denied, you or your lawyer should file a Form 50 on your behalf with the Workers' Compensation Commission. This sets out the various parties, the date and description of the accident, who you reported it to, the injuries suffered, whether medical treatment is needed, any disfigurement you may have received and any other relief you may be requesting.
The employer, unless self insured, is usually represented by an insurance company known as the carrier. The carrier files an answer on a Form 51, where they may admit or deny what you have said in your Form 50. The case is then placed on the Workers' Compensation Commission's docket, and assigned to an individual Commissioner who acts as a fact finder and also rules on the law. A hearing is usually held within three to five months, and at the hearing the employee presents his/her case.
Usually medical testimony is presented in the form of a deposition and your physician will not attend a hearing. The other medical evidence that the Commissioner will rely upon are the medical records you and the Carrier present.
Once a commissioner has ruled on the case, he/she will issue an Opinion and Award which sets forth his/her ruling of fact and law, and what relief, if any, the employee gets. If either party is dissatisfied with the decision, the case can be appealed to the full Commission which is made up of all the Workers' Compensation Commissioners except for the one who heard the case originally. After that hearing is held, if either party is dissatisfied with the decision, it can be appealed to the Circuit Court and on up to the South Carolina Supreme Court. You have 14 days from the date of the Order to file an appeal.
Once the case has been decided by the full Commission it is rare that it is appealed to the courts. Fault or negligence is not an issue regarding the payment of a workers' compensation claim unless, for example, the employee was intoxicated at the time of the injury. Remember, if you are injured on the job, report the incident to your supervisor.
This information was prepared to give you some general information on the law. It is not intended as legal advice about any particular problem. If you have questions about the law you should consult a lawyer. If you do not know a lawyer, you can call the South Carolina Bar Lawyer Referral Service weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The number is 799-7100 in Richland or Lexington Counties, and 1-800-868-2284 from other parts of the state.