If you were injured in a work-related accident and were denied workers’ compensation, you may be able to appeal this decision and try to get a settlement. Even if your employer is paying for some treatment, their insurance carrier will often try to minimize your treatment and intentionally choose doctors that work with them to pay as little as possible. While what they are doing may seem fair, we often find that defendants underpay claims not involving a lawyer.
Still, what is a fair workers’ compensation settlement? This is not an easy question to answer. A fair settlement depends on your accident and your injuries, so it will be different in every case. This article may help you understand what workers’ compensation covers and how you fight for a fair settlement.
Not All Workers Are Entitled to Workers’ Compensation
According to the SC Code § 42-1-150, almost all South Carolina employers with four or more regular employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This includes all regular employees, regardless of age, legal status, or number of hours worked.
There are some exceptions to this law. For example, railway and agricultural workers are not entitled to workers’ compensation.
Workers’ compensation provides injured employees with:
- Medical care for the on-the-job injury
- Weekly temporary disability checks to help compensate for the income they lost during their recovery
- Permanent disability benefits if the employee’s injury will never fully heal and will permanently impact their ability to work
It should be noted that workers’ compensation covers more than just physical injuries. An employee with a work-related disease or mental illness may qualify for workers’ compensation, but proving this qualification takes a lot of work and strong evidence.
What to Do if Your Claim Is Denied
Going back to work too soon can make your injuries even worse. Your compensation might get stopped, and your employer might tell you that you must return to work. This can be dangerous if you are still healing from your injuries and must go through additional medical treatments to recover. The South Carolina Bar explains what you can do if your employer or their insurance company denies your claim.
Your first step is to file a form explaining every detail of your accident and injuries. The insurance company will respond with their side of the story. Afterward, a workers’ compensation commissioner will be assigned to your case. They will take both of your accounts into consideration, accept evidence from both sides, and make a decision.
If either you or the other party disagrees with the commissioner’s decision, you may appeal.
At some point during this process, your employer or their insurance company may decide to offer you a settlement. The workers’ compensation settlement is determined by the agreement you reach with the employer’s insurance provider. Still, how can you tell if the settlement offer is fair and that it covers all of your damages? You may want to talk to a lawyer about your case to make sure you do not inadvertently sacrifice your rights or the money you might be entitled to receive. It is important to note that once you receive an offer on your claim, it may be too late to hire an attorney as a lawyer cannot take a fee on amounts offered before their representation. This makes it less likely for the lawyer to want to help you with your claim. Insurance companies know this so they try to offer smaller sums that make your claim less attractive to an attorney considering your claim.
When to Hire a Lawyer
While you can represent yourself, legal representation may relieve you of legal burdens you may not want to face alone. You do not have to worry about making mistakes on paperwork or facing a big insurance company by yourself. A lawyer can take on the difficult tasks of:
- Filing forms: Your lawyer will make sure all paperwork is sent to the right people at the right times.
- Collecting evidence: A deposition—or testimonial statement—from your doctor may help swing the case in your favor. Your lawyer may collect and submit this deposition and any other evidence they find to the workers’ compensation commissioner for consideration.
- Negotiating for you: Your lawyer may help you figure out what a fair settlement looks like in your case and fight hard to get the insurance company to agree to it. Seek representation from an attorney with experience in negotiating workers’ compensation settlements.
- Reviewing the settlement agreement: If you are offered a settlement figure, you may have your lawyer look at it first. They will make sure the agreement is favorable to you and advise you.
What if you do not have the money for a lawyer? It is understandable if you are worried about finances at a time when you cannot work and are not receiving workers’ compensation benefits. However, legal representation may be more affordable than you think. All lawyers at Hammack Law Firm handle Workers Compensation claims on a contingency fee basis. This means you do not have to pay their attorney’s fees right away. Instead, they take their fees out of whatever money they win for you. If they cannot get any money for you, you do not have to pay them.
You might be entitled to a fair workers’ compensation settlement, whatever that may look like in your case. Call Hammack Law Firm any time, day or night, to learn more about how we can help you fight for the settlement you need. Our phone number is 864-326-3333. We would be happy to review your case.