The idea of not being able to return to work after an injury is a terrifying prospect. This is particularly true if a workplace injury interferes with injured workers’ basic ability to do their jobs. At-will states like South Carolina do not require employees to document a legal reason for terminating your employment.
What most people do not realize, however, is that there are limits to at-will employment, especially when it comes to protections for those who file a workers’ compensation claim. The right workers’ compensation attorney can help guide you through the process of filing a workers’ comp claim without fear of retaliation.
At HawkLaw, P.A., we have years of experience dealing with workers’ compensation cases and workers’ compensation law. Regardless of what happens, HawkLaw can protect you in cases of wrongful termination. HawkLaw fights to win, and we are ready to fight for you.
When Should I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
The workers’ compensation system is in place to protect everyone who gets hurt at work or suffers a work-related injury. This no-fault insurance is not concerned with specifically who caused the action or how it happened, so long as it happened during your normal work duties.
If you have been hurt at work, you should report it to your employer as soon as possible. It is important to act quickly; if you do not report injuries within 90 days, you can lose your right to benefits. After this, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim with your job’s workers’ compensation insurance company.
What Happens After I File a Workers’ Comp Claim in South Carolina?
If you qualify to receive workers’ compensation disability benefits, you will receive a check from the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission to cover all your medical treatment bills and expenses as well as two-thirds of your weekly wages, up to a maximum cap that is adjusted annually.
You will be assigned an authorized treating doctor who will determine the extent of your injuries and how long you will be out of work. You may receive total or partial disability benefits depending on how extensive your injuries are. Even relatively short-term injuries may qualify you for some level of temporary benefits.
Your benefits can last for life if your disability is permanent after you have reached a state of maximum medical improvement, or MMI. If it is a temporary disability, your benefits will terminate after your doctor releases you to go back to work. After you return to work, you will be asked to sign Form 17 after 15 days. This serves as a receipt of compensation.
In some cases, you may only be able to return to light duty. If your doctor orders this, your employer must, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, make reasonable accommodations to allow you to perform your new job duties with work restrictions. If your employer cannot accommodate you, you are entitled to total disability.
The most common disputes requiring legal advice from a workers comp attorney involve whether an employee is able to return to work. If you are being ordered to return to work before you are able to do so, the HawkLaw law firm may be able to help. Call us at 888-HAWKLAW or complete our online form to speak with an experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer. You may be entitled to a free case evaluation.*
Can My Employer Fire Me While I Am on Workers’ Comp Benefits in SC?
The short answer is that your employer may not, under any circumstances, fire you because you filed a workers’ comp claim. This is illegal retaliation and is a form of wrongful termination. Your employer can, however, fire you for any other reason while you are on workers’ compensation.
South Carolina may be a right-to-work state, which means employers can fire at will, but that doesn’t extend to workers comp claims.
If you file a workers comp claim and your employer tries to fire you, talk to your workers comp lawyer—you may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer.
South Carolina works to ensure that employees are safe from retaliation. However, that protection mainly extends to your workers comp benefits. If you’re unable to work for some time, you may not be guaranteed a job when you’re well.
If this is your case, your benefits won’t be discontinued, but you may need to consider other employment options if your injuries are temporary and you weren’t fired because of your injuries.
What Are the Rules for Firing an Employee in South Carolina?
South Carolina is an at-will employment state. This means that your employer is not required to provide a legal reason for your dismissal. There are many ways in an at-will state that your employer can fire you legally. These reasons include, but may not be limited to, reducing the workforce, the need to replace your position, an inability to accommodate you, a violation of company policies, poor performance, and insubordination.
Reduction of Workforce
Reduction of the workforce is commonly called “layoffs.” If your employer is downsizing, they can legally let you go for this reason. If you are the only one released in this manner, however, you should speak to a workers’ comp law office for advice.
Inability to Operate Without Your Position
If your position is essential to the operation of the company, and the employer cannot continue to operate without you, they can fire you. If they do not, however, replace you in the same position so they can show that firing you was necessary, you may be able to make a case for retaliation.
Inability to Accommodate Worker
If the employer cannot accommodate you based on the work restrictions recommended by your doctor, they may be able to dismiss you. In such a case, you may be entitled to continue receiving permanent disability benefits under workers’ compensation law.
Violation of Company Policy
If your company can show that you did something that clearly violates their company policy, they can dismiss you. If they think they can show that this violation also caused your injury, they may try to deny your benefits. A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you fight back in these cases.
Poor Work Performance
The employer can cite poor performance as a reason for the firing. They may simply state that your performance was below company standards.
If your employer can show that you constantly and unjustly challenged authority, or did so in an egregious manner, your employer may terminate your employment for insubordination.
Does Termination Affect My Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Regardless of whether you are fired, workers’ compensation will pay your medical bills. The key, however, is that your claim must be valid under South Carolina workers’ compensation law, meaning the injuries were job-related. In the case of permanent injury, you are entitled to up to 500 weeks of workers’ compensation regardless of your employment status.
People who have sustained injuries that left them partially or totally paralyzed (paraplegic or quadriplegic), or those who sustained permanent brain injuries, may be compensated for life. Again, however, the injury must be a valid injury under and approved for workers’ compensation.
What Should I Do if I Was Wrongfully Terminated?
Even though South Carolina is an at-will state, if you were wrongfully terminated, you may be able to sue your employer. You will, however, need to prove that the termination was retaliatory. It can be difficult to build evidence for this. If your employer cites layoffs, for example, but you are the only person laid off, this may be the beginning of a case. If they cite insubordination or poor work performance, but you have consistently had glowing performance reviews, you may be able to challenge it.
Often, however, the situation is not so cut-and-dry, and proving that you were the subject of a retaliatory firing can be very tough. Building a case requires specific legal knowledge and experience. That is why it is so important as soon as you file a workers’ comp claim in South Carolina to contact a qualified workers’ compensation attorney for assistance.
HawkLaw Fights to Keep You Safe From Retaliation
HawkLaw will fight by your side every step of the way to protect your right to workers’ compensation and protect you from wrongful termination and retaliation from your employer. We are a caring ear and a determined friend when you need it the most. We will build a case to support you and fight for as long as we must to help you get the benefits you deserve and to which you are entitled under the law. See our disclaimer at the bottom of the page to discover if you are entitled to a free consultation.*
If you need help with your claim, call us at 888-HAWKLAW or complete our easy online contact form to speak with a member of our experienced legal team today. Remember, HawkLaw fights to win. We have won thousands for past clients and can do the same for you.