If you’ve lost a limb (or the use of a limb) in an on-the-job accident in South Carolina, you’re probably out of work and trying to stay afloat in a sea of bills. You may be considering filing a workers’ compensation claim, but that can be a long and challenging process. Ultimately, you probably have one question at the top of your mind: What is the value of my case?
The most honest answer to this question is: It depends. The only way to get an honest assessment of the value of your claim is to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can learn about the unique facts of your case and give you their opinion about how you should proceed.
However, don’t get discouraged if you’re just looking for some basic information that can help you figure out how much your case might be worth. While it’s no substitute for a consultation with an experienced lawyer, we’ll provide a quick overview of the formula that the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) uses to determine the value of workers’ compensation claims involving the loss of a limb.
The Formula for Workers’ Compensation Claims, Part One: Determining Your Injuries
Like many other states, South Carolina has created a formula that the WCC uses to calculate workers’ compensation benefits for any given case. The first part of this formula for cases involving amputations (which are called “scheduled loss of use” cases) involves determining which parts of your body were injured and then consulting Section 42-9-30 of the South Carolina Code of Laws to see how much compensation that injury is worth.
This section of the code can be a disturbing read, as it goes into painstaking and blunt detail about the loss of various body parts and how much compensation those body parts are “worth” in weeks of compensation. The section includes lots of language like:
“The loss of the first phalange of any toe is considered to be equal to the loss of one half of such toe and the compensation must be for one half the periods of time above specified.”
The code is very specific about how many weeks’ worth of compensation injured workers can receive based on the body parts that were injured. For example, according to the code, the loss of a leg is “worth” 195 weeks.
The Formula for Workers’ Compensation Claims, Part Two: Calculating Your Compensation Rate
Once the WCC has determined what body parts were lost or affected because of an injury and added up the number of weeks, they’ll multiply that number by your compensation rate. To figure out your compensation rate, they’ll calculate how much money you made per week on average over the four quarters leading up to the quarter when the injury occurred. Then, they multiply that weekly average by 66 and two-thirds percent (0.6666).
An Example of a Scheduled Loss of Use Benefits Calculation
Let’s put this all together in an example. Let’s say a worker lost the use of their arm in a workplace accident. During the four quarters prior to the accident, they made $750 per week on average. The WCC will consult the state code and see that the loss of an arm is “worth” 220 weeks of compensation, then apply the formula:
(Number of weeks) x (Compensation rate) = Total compensation
Remember that the compensation rate is 66 and two-thirds percent of the worker’s average weekly rate. So, in this case, the formula would apply like this:
220 weeks x ($750 x 0.6666) = $108,900
In this case, the WCC would calculate the value of the worker’s claim at $108,900.
What Happens When Mathematical Formulas Meet Real-World Cases?
While the idea of applying a mathematical formula to workers’ compensation claims seems logical, if a little cold-hearted, real-world injury cases are almost never as straightforward as the example above.
For example, let’s say a worker didn’t completely lose their arm, but instead suffered injuries that left their arm partially disabled. In this case, the WCC will try and determine exactly how disabled the body part is and apply a percentage to the disability. (Example: The loss of an arm is worth 220 weeks, so a 50 percent disabled arm is worth 110 weeks.)
But how can you pin an exact percentage on a person’s disability? Even two doctors might disagree. One might examine the worker and say their arm is 45 percent disabled, while another might say 65 percent.
To try and address this problem, the WCC considers two factors that help gauge the extent of workers’ injuries: medical impairment rating and workers’ compensation disability rating.
- Medical impairment rating is an overall assessment of loss of function and mobility as well as disfigurement. It’s based on medical records and testimony from doctors.
- Workers’ compensation disability rating is based on how difficult the worker’s injuries will make it for them to find comparable work in the future. For example, the loss of a leg might not prevent an administrative professional from getting another similar job, but it could be career-ending for an on-site construction worker.
However, the fact remains that there’s always a degree of subjectivity in assessing injuries and degrees of disability. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced attorney who can handle your South Carolina workers’ compensation claim. If you’ve lost a limb or the use of a limb on the job, you need an attorney who can gather all the relevant medical evidence and then convey the real extent of your injuries using terms the WCC will understand and take seriously.
David L. Hood: Advocating for Injured Workers in North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Georgetown, and Throughout South Carolina
To learn more about your rights as an injured worker and receive the care and attention your workers’ compensation case deserves, contact The Law Offices of David L. Hood, a South Carolina law firm with years of experience representing injured workers before the WCC.
We handle all cases on a contingent fee basis, which means you won’t pay any attorney’s fees or expenses unless we win your case or negotiate a successful settlement.* Call our offices at (843) 491-6025 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation with us today.
*Clients are not liable for any expenses, unless there is a recovery in their case; however, if there is a recovery in their case, clients will be liable for expenses. Attorney’s fees are based on a percentage of the recovery, which will be computed before deducting expenses.
Title 42, Workers’ compensation, chapter 9, compensation and payment. S.C. Code of Laws § 42-9. Retrieved from https://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t42c009.php
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.