South Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act provides workers with a number of benefits, such as medical and disability benefits. However, it has a valid reason, an employer’s insurance carrier may cease paying out benefits during the first 150 days after a workers’ compensation claim has been filed. After 150 days, it is much more difficult for an employer to terminate an employee’s benefits. Doing so requires either written consent of the employee or permission from South Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Compensation for Permanent Impairment or Disability Recovery
In addition to medical benefits, a fundamental benefit provided under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation law is compensation for permanent impairment or disability recovery. Although the terms impairment and disability may appear to be synonymous, they are not. Impairment is defined as the effect an injury has on a given body part. Disability, on the other hand, is the effect of the injury on the injured worker’s ability to earn a living. Defined as such, it is possible to have an impairment without having a disability. Impairment is physical whereas disability is financial – at least as defined in the South Carolina workers’ compensation context. For example, a lifting-related lower back injury might result in a temporary or even permanent impairment, reducing one’s range of motion by 25% or rendering them unable to move free from pain. While this might constitute an impairment, if the impairment has zero effect on the injured worker’s ability to earn a living, it would not constitute a disability.
It is important to understand, however, that there exists a disability even if an impairment merely reduces, rather than removes, one’s ability to earn a living – and even if the reduction is only minimal. Impairment is often a strong basis for recovery from an employer’s insurance carrier under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation system because it is less influenced by the nature of one’s employment. Disability, on the contrary, is highly influenced by the nature of one’s work. While a 25% lower back injury might impose a serious disability on one who earns his or her living through manual labor (e.g. construction), the same impairment would be unlikely to impose a disability on one whose employment requires little to no physical labor (e.g. accountant).
South Carolina’s workers’ compensation system has been in place for nearly 80 years, and over that time it has developed many complexities. The types of benefits, the intricate manner in which each type is calculated, the determination of whether a workplace injury constitutes an impairment or disability or both – each of these factors can influence the type and amount of workers’ compensation benefits to be paid out to an injured employee by the employer’s insurance company.
If you have been injured in an industrial accident in the state of South Carolina, contact an experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney. An attorney will hear the facts surrounding your workplace injury, explain your legal rights, and work to obtain the full amount of compensation you may be entitled to for your injuries.
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.