A workplace injury can throw your career and your livelihood into question. When that injury occurs to a significant bodily system such as the back and spinal cord, the injury may be debilitating. In South Carolina, employees may seek workers’ compensation for back injuries through the state’s workers’ compensation system.
Nonetheless, the legal process of filing a claim and gaining a settlement can be daunting. Continue reading to learn how your team at Williams and Kamb can guide you through the process of taking a workers’ compensation claim from trial to settlement.
What is Considered a “Back Injury?”
Millions of Americans and thousands of South Carolinians experience workplace injuries every year. In 2020 alone, over 1,000 South Carolinians reported back and spinal injuries that occurred at work.
Workers in the transportation, health, and manufacturing industries were most likely to report such an injury. Other common industries included construction, professional services, and hospitality.
But what counts as a “back injury?” According to the Mayo Clinic, common injuries to the back occur from over-exertion, force, repetitive motion, and inactivity. This means that even if you work a desk job, you could suffer from a back injury. Examples of the most-reported back injuries include:
- Herniated discs
- Other traumatic injuries to the ligaments, muscles, and joints
Musculoskeletal disorders, defined as “injuries or illnesses that result from overexertion or repetitive motion,” can also affect the back. Examples include hernias, tears, sprains, strains, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Musculoskeletal disorders of the back accounted for nearly 40% of all such disorders nationwide in 2016.
Getting Started: Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
After suffering a back injury, the first step in your legal journey is to file a claim. The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act (“Workers’ Compensation Act) provides a comprehensive process for both filing a claim and recovering lost wages and other damages.
- Provide notice of your back injury to your employer.
Upon suffering a back injury at work, you must notify your employer. If the injury occurred due to a workplace accident, you must “immediately” or as soon as “practicable” alert your employer to the accident. The Workers’ Compensation Act allows 90 days for this notice. The timeline is different for repetitive motion injuries. In that case, you must notify your employer within 90 days of your discovery of this injury. While there are limited exceptions, it’s best to alert your employer as soon as possible.
- Determine where to file your workers’ compensation claim.
The Workers’ Compensation Act provides three different states in which a claim could be filed: (1) the state of hire; (2) the state of injury; or (3) the state of employment.
Therefore, you must be hired, injured, or employed in South Carolina to file your claim here.
- File your claim within 2 years of your back injury.
Generally, you must file your claim within two years after suffering your back or spinal injury. But for repetitive trauma injuries, you must file within two years after you “knew or should have known that the injury is compensable.” However, there are also cases where employers and insurers deny claims. Denied claims most commonly include injuries caused by:
- Fighting or horseplay
- Pre existing condition
- Criminal activity or drug use
- Violation of company rules
While filing a claim may look as simple as 1-2-3, this is only the beginning. But filing an effective claim will help in obtaining a favorable settlement.
Winning a Favorable Settlement
According to research from Martindale-Nolo, the average settlement for a work-related back injury is about $25,000. However, settlements for such injuries range from less than $10,000 to more than $60,000 in more extreme situations. This study also found that factors tending to increase a settlement amount include (1) filing a workers’ compensation appeal, (2) negotiating the settlement amount, and (3) having a lawyer.
Of course, the settlement amount also depends on several factors: first and foremost, the severity and type of injury. Injuries requiring consistent physical and/or occupational therapy and surgical intervention tend to drive a settlement toward the higher extreme. Other factors that influence back injury settlements include:
- Current and expected future medical costs
- Lost wages and potential future earnings
- Disability payments
- Retraining costs
- Legal fees
Real people in South Carolina have won settlements valued at:
- $180,000: Assembly-line worker injured lifting heavy objects
- $156,000: Truck driver who suffered repetitive trauma
- $150,000: Construction worker whose injury required cervical fusion surgery
Ready to File a Claim?
Once you’ve suffered a back injury, finding a trusted partner to help you navigate the claims and settlement process is paramount. The nature of your injury or employment can complicate matters further. Filing a workers’ compensation claim for a back or spinal injury in South Carolina can start your recovery, and you want to be sure you have the right team at your side to help you maneuver through the process. So, make sure you do your research and find a team of professionals willing to get you the settlement you deserve.