South Carolina worker compensation laws were originally written and designed to provide easy to obtain benefits for injured workers. However, all too often, injured workers in South Carolina are unfairly and wrongfully denied benefits. In these cases, injured workers can generally hire legal counsel and obtain the benefits they are being denied. Although the South Carolina Workers Compensation Act was designed to provide injured workers easily obtainable benefits, any worker facing serious injury at work should consult with an experienced workers compensation lawyer like Morris Law to determine their rights and maximize their benefits available under the Act.
Temporary Total Disability Benefits (TTD): Temporary Total Disability benefit refers to the compensation pay an injured employee receives while the doctor has placed them out of work. The injured workers compensation rate is calculated via a formula set by the South Carolina Workers Compensation commission. The compensation rate is the average weekly wage (aww) multiplied by .667.
Average Weekly Wage (AWW): An injured worker’s average weekly wage under the South Carolina Worker’s Compensation Act is an average of the employee’s gross weekly wages. The aww is calculated by averaging the employees 4 quarters of wages prior to the quarter they were injured. In other words, you would not use the quarter in which the employee was injured in to calculate his or her aww. But what if the employee has not worked for the employer for a year or more? If that were the case, the injured employee would have two options to calculate their average weekly wage. The employee could calculate their wage by averaging their gross pay per week from their hire date through the date of the injury, or the employer could use a similarly situated employee’s wages to calculate the average weekly wage.
Compensation Rate: An employee’s compensation rate drives the figures in their case. The employee’s compensation rate is 2/3 of their average weekly wage. An example of an employee’s compensation rate would be: An injured employee makes $15.00 per hour and they average 40 hours per week. That injured employee would have an average weekly wage of $600.00. Their compensation rate would be $600.00 multiplied by .667. Therefore, the compensation rate would be $400.20. This compensation rate is designed to represent what the injured employee was taking home after taxes before the accident.
Partial Disability: This type of wage benefits is determined by whether your injury is permanent or temporary in nature. If your disability is temporary, then you can receive weekly wage benefits for a maximum of 340 weeks. If your injuries recover and you can return to work without restrictions, then the weekly wage benefits would stop. However, with permanent partial disability, some injuries will automatically grant you a specific number of weeks, such as:
- Loss of a thumb: 65 weeks of payment
- Loss of an arm: 220 weeks of payment
- Loss of a big toe: 32 weeks of payment
- Loss of a leg: 195 weeks of payment
- Loss of the back: (1-49%) 300 weeks of payment
- Losing vision: 140 weeks of payment
Total Disability: Much like Partial Disability, but total disability will apply when your injury is permanent in nature and you cannot return to work with or without restrictions. Total disability will provide you disability benefits of 2/3 your average weekly wage for a period up to 500 weeks. However, there is an exception to the 500 week cap and that is for permanent brain injuries and injuries that render the worker a paraplegic or quadriplegic.
Death Benefits: Unfortunately, in very tragic instances, some employees lose their life in a work injury. The South Carolina workers compensation laws have set out the recovery for those workers families. The following family members are determined to be conclusively dependents:
- A spouse;
- A child under 18;
- A child under 23 who is a full-time student at an accredited school;
- A child of any age who is incapable of self-support due to a disability;
- Other people can qualify as total or partial dependents, but only if they were actually dependent on the worker for financial support at least 3 months prior to the work accident.
There is a limitation to the payment of death benefits. The employee’s death must occur within 2 years of the work-related accident, or if the worker has a continuing total disability, within 6 years of the work-related accident. Death benefits are paid in the following order of dependents:
- Whole Dependents: If there are whole dependents, they will share the weekly benefit. However, if there is a spouse and two or more children, the spouse will receive at least 50% of the benefit and the children will share the other 50%.
- Partial Dependents: If there are no whole dependents, partial dependents will proportionally receive benefits to their dependence on the deceased worker. If any of the benefit is leftover then it will go to the worker’s non-dependent children, or if there are none, to the worker’s non-dependent parents.
- Nondependent Children: If there are no partial dependents, then the benefits will go to the worker’s nondependent children.
- Nondependent Parents: If there are no nondependent children, then the benefits will go to the worker’s nondependent parents.
Death benefits are paid for a maximum of 500 weeks from the date of injury. Benefits for children end when they reach the age of 18, or age 23 if they are enrolled in school full time. However, children who are mentally or physically incapable of self-support will continue to receive benefits for the full 500 weeks. Further, the worker’s compensation insurance carrier will have to pay for funeral and burial expenses up to $12,000.