A work injury can cause major disruptions to your life—not only your health, but also to your career, finances, and overall well-being. The South Carolina workers’ compensation system is designed to compensate you for some of these losses and get you back to work as soon as possible. However, worker’s comp also limits the amount of money you can receive from your employer. This article explains the types and amounts of benefits that are available through workers’ comp. (To get these benefits, you will need to file a South Carolina workers’ compensation claim.)
In South Carolina, temporary disability benefits are paid to workers who need to take more than seven days off work due to their injuries. The first seven days of disability are not paid, unless you miss more than 14 days of work.
Temporary total disability benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage, but cannot exceed a maximum amount set by law each year. For 2020, the maximum benefit is $866.67 per week. (The cap is updated annually in January; you can find a list of the maximums at the website of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission.) Temporary total benefits are paid until you reach maximum medical improvement or until you’re able return to your normal job.
Temporary partial disability benefits are paid when you’re able to work but earning less than usual due to your injury. These benefits are two-thirds of the difference between your wages before the injury and what you’re able to earn after your injury. For example, suppose you normally earn $900, but you’re able to work a light-duty job earning $300 per week. You would receive two-thirds of $600 ($900 - $300), or $400 per week. Temporary partial benefits are paid for a maximum of 340 weeks.
Once your medical treatment is complete, your doctor will evaluate you for a permanent disability. If you are found to be permanently and totally disabled, you will continue to receive weekly payments at the same rate as your temporary total disability benefits. Permanent total disabilities are very severe injuries—such as the loss of both hands, arms, feet, legs, eyes, or a combination of any two of those body parts. For most disabilities, benefits are paid for a maximum of 500 weeks. However, for certain types of paralysis and brain damage, benefits continue for life.
If your doctor finds that you have a permanent partial disability, you may be eligible for additional benefits. South Carolina workers’ compensation pays for scheduled losses, unscheduled losses, and disfigurement.
A scheduled loss of use award is available for permanent disabilities of certain body parts, such as the eyes, ears, arms, legs, hands, feet, or back. The benefit is two-thirds of your average weekly wages, subject to the same maximum as temporary total disability benefits. The duration of the award depends on the number of weeks assigned to the injured body part in a state schedule. For example, the schedule lists a total loss of use of a foot at 140 weeks. If you have only a 50% loss of use of the foot, you would receive 70 weeks of payments.
For injuries to the organs and body parts not mentioned in the schedule, you can receive an unscheduled award based on a disability rating to the body as a whole. The weekly benefit is the same as for a scheduled award: two-thirds of your average weekly wage. You can receive up to 500 weeks of payment, depending on the severity of your disability. For example, if you have a 10% disability to the body as a whole, you will receive payments for 50 weeks.
A judge may award up to 50 weeks of payment for a serious disfigurement to the face, head, neck, or another body part that must be exposed for employment. Workers cannot receive a disfigurement award if they have already received another scheduled or unscheduled award, except for serious burn scars or keloid scars.
South Carolina workers’ compensation also provides additional benefits, including:
As you can see, workers’ compensation only pays of a portion of your lost wages. Workers’ comp also does not pay anything for the pain and suffering caused by your injury. While this may seem unfair, it is part of the trade-off that is the workers’ comp system. The advantage of workers’ comp is that you can get benefits relatively quickly without needing to file a lawsuit or prove that your employer was at fault for causing your injury. The downside is that you can’t get the full value of your losses. (However, in some cases, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover pain and suffering and other losses. To learn more, see our article on suing outside of the workers’ comp system.)