It probably isn’t surprising to hear that back strains and sprains are the most common workplace injury in the United States. It also isn’t surprising to hear that bending to lift or pull heavy objects is the main cause for back injuries. Despite the routine health and safety precautions that most employers put in place, back injuries will most likely continue to be the number one workplace injury. Here are some statistics to put it into context: In February 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 443,560 sprain, strain and tear cases resulted in days off work within the private industry for a single year. In a massive 36% of these cases the workers injured their backs.
The Impact of a Back Injury
Anyone that is suffering from a back injury will be able to tell you that there is significant pain which leaves them unable to perform routine tasks. While many back injuries are only minor muscular strains, more serious injuries can cause bulging disks, a herniated disk, nerve root impingement, and even fractures to the vertebrae. Back injury treatment varies from medication to physical therapy and possibly back surgery which can require months of rest to heal. Unfortunately, some back injuries can result in permanent impairment.
The financial impact of a back injury doesn’t just affect the worker but also the employer and the medical system due to medical costs, lost time at work, loss of income, and increased burden on health care providers. Each year literally billions of dollars are lost through back injuries. Besides the financial effects, other consequences of having a back injury can be overwhelming if workers are unable to return to work, enjoy time with their family and perform simple every-day chores. Even relatively minor injuries can prevent workers being able to return to their jobs and major injuries can affect a worker’s prospects of earning long-term gainful employment and being a valued member of South Carolina’s workforce.
The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation System
Thankfully, injured workers in South Carolina have legal rights available to them through South Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation system. The workers compensation system is designed to provide an injured employee the necessary medical treatment they need along with disability payments, and monetary compensation for any physical impairment or disability suffered while at work.
Workers’ compensation is available to anyone that has been injured while performing their work duties. Even if the back injury was minor or a worker had a pre-existing condition, compensation is available. Generally, the laws for workers’ compensation entitle an injured worker to all related medical treatment and up to 500 weeks of benefits (depending on case specifics) for your back injury.
South Carolina workers’ compensation claims are subject to strict deadlines for reporting and filing claims. There is also a hearing process which requires an injured worker to adhere to certain South Carolina statutes along with rules of the Commission in order to prove their claim. Without an experienced attorney these requirements can be daunting and overwhelming for an injured party to try and handle independently. Many workers’ compensation claims fail because the injured worker is unaware of the laws, deadlines and strict legal requirements for producing evidence.
What to do in the event of an injury at work?
The most crucial piece of advice that any legal professional can give is to report the injury to a supervisor immediately. This is a vital first step and the injured worker must be sure that the supervisor documented the injury. The law requires the injured worker to report the injury within 90 days of the occurrence, however, in reality the practical effect is that most employers will deny a claim if the injury was not reported immediately.
Unfortunately, it is very common to see claims denied simply because the injured worker waited a few days to report the accident. The most common excuse given by claimants is that they thought they had only strained their back and that it would get better in a couple of days. Many people don’t want to trouble their bosses or appear to be complaining, but if they don’t report the incident immediately it may cost them their legally entitled benefits. Below are some more detailed reasons why any delay will cause negative consequences for the injured party:
- The delay in reporting the injury gives the employer reason to question how the worker truly got injured. Once reported, the employer will investigate the accident by questioning co-workers to see if any witnesses can vouch for the injury. During this process it is common for co-workers to simply say that they don’t remember as many people fear displeasing their employer and prefer not to get involved with work disputes. It is also not unusual for employers to falsely accuse the injured worker of sustaining the injury at home rather than at work. Therefore, it is crucial that the injured worker does not give the employer justification to question their credibility by delaying reporting the injury.
- Because of the above complications with delays, many companies now have policies that require injured workers to report their injuries immediately. Failure to report the work accident can be deemed to be a violation of company policy for which the injured worker may be terminated. It is against the law in South Carolina for workers to be fired because they feared reporting an injury and losing their job. But if workers continue to injure themselves and they repeatedly fail to report the accidents, workers can find themselves out of a job.
In conclusion, it is legally imperative that injured workers report their accident at work immediately regardless of how insignificant they think the injury is. Don’t take a chance and wait to see if your back will heal overnight, protect your rights and report the accident to your supervisor.
At David R. Price, Jr. P.A. we have skilled and experienced personal injury attorneys that will fight relentlessly so that you are reimbursed for every loss. Contact us now for a free consultation and help with your claim.
David Price is a Personal Injury, Civil Litigation, Collections, and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law, and has been practicing law for 12 years. David Price believes in helping those who have been injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.