workers comp and dealing with doctors

If you’re injured on the job in South Carolina, you’ll need to see a doctor in order to file a workers’ compensation claim and start receiving benefits. However, you aren’t allowed to see just any physician. Your employer’s insurance representative will tell you which doctor to visit following your workplace injury.

Once you arrive at the doctor, you must explain in detail what happened. Don’t leave anything out and answer all questions honestly. Be sure to let them know about any pre-existing medical conditions. 

It’s important to make sure you attend all of your doctor’s appointments. If you cancel frequently or are a “no show,” that can make it seem as though your workplace injury isn’t as serious as you claim, which is a great opportunity for the insurance company to doubt the legitimacy of your claim.

If the insurance company questions the diagnosis given to you by the first doctor, they have a right to schedule you to see a different physician. If this happens, you must attend that appointment. If the second doctor doesn’t believe you need medical care, this opens up the insurance company to try to deny your claim. In this event, it is highly advised that you hire a personal injury attorney who can fight the insurance company on your behalf. 

Meanwhile, if you are unhappy with the doctor provided to you, or question their diagnosis, you can ask the insurance representative if they will allow you to go to another physician. If they deny your request, you have a right to request a hearing with a workers’ compensation commissioner. It’s important to listen to your body during this stressful time. For example, if you hurt your back at work and it’s continuously hurting but the doctor says there’s nothing wrong, it’s time to request a second opinion. 

Of course, it should go without saying that if you need emergency medical treatment immediately after your accident, you should seek care right away at the nearest hospital. This treatment will be covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. 

Your Doctor’s Assessments Will Guide Your Care & Benefits

After your injury, your doctor’s assessment will be the deciding factor on how much medical treatment you receive. They will assess your physical condition and determine whether you need to see specialists, have surgery and/or undergo physical therapy. They will continue to monitor you while you are injured, and they will determine how long you need to be out of work. 

If your doctor writes you out of work due to your injury, give that note to your employer and your employer’s insurance representative and save a copy for your records.

When you’re able to go back to work, your doctor will decide if you’re safe to return to your usual duties or if you need to be given light duty restrictions. 

Once you’re cleared to return to work, your benefits will cease if your employer offers you work. If you are cleared for light duty and make less money doing that work than you were making before the accident, you will receive wages from your employer for your hours worked, plus an additional payment from the insurance company for a percentage of the difference between your pre-injury wages and post-injury wages. 

If you are written out of work for more than seven days, you are entitled to temporary lost wages, or temporary compensation, on the 8th calendar day following your inability to work. This compensation will be at the rate of 66 ⅔ percent of your average weekly wage, based on the four full quarters prior to the injury. However, that amount cannot be more than the maximum average weekly wage determined each year by the state of South Carolina. If you are written out of work for more than 14 days, you are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits from the first day of incapacity. 

If your physician determines that you no longer need treatment, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are completely healed – it just means you’ve reached “maximum medical improvement.” In other words, you aren’t likely to further recover. In these cases, the doctor will determine if you have any long-lasting work restrictions, and if you have a permanent disability. 

In the event that you have a permanent disability as a result of your injury, the doctor will assess the severity of that injury and will give you an impairment rating. To give these ratings, doctors refer to an American Medical Association guide which instructs them to base the rating on four things: your diagnosis, your functional history (your reports of symptoms and limitations from your injury), exam findings, and medical tests. 

Impairment ratings operate on a sliding scale. Those who are totally and permanently disabled to the worst degree would receive an impairment rating of 100%, while those who are partially disabled would receive a lesser impairment rating.

The employer’s insurance representative may then make you a settlement offer based on the impairment rating, taking into account the disability rating they think a commissioner might award at a hearing. If settlement negotiations fail, a hearing will take place and a workers’ compensation commissioner will decide the case. Those who have been severely and permanently disabled as a result of their accident may be able to receive benefits for life. 

It should be understood that while most South Carolina employers with more than four full-time or part-time employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, there are a few exceptions. Those include agricultural employees, railroad employees, Textile Hall Corporation employees, and some real estate agents. If you have questions about your company’s coverage, reach out to your supervisor or HR department for clarification. 

How Can A Personal Injury Attorney Help?

It always helps to have a qualified South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer on your side. Here are some examples of when a personal injury attorney might be needed:

  • If your benefits are denied or delayed
  • If you’re cleared for work too quickly
  • If you’ve been asked to attend an independent medical exam
  • If the insurance company claims your injury was caused by a pre-existing condition
  • If your employer claims you aren’t covered by workers’ compensation insurance
  • If your employer claims you were injured elsewhere
  • If the insurance company isn’t playing fair
  • If you’re being accused of fraud
  • If you develop symptoms gradually over time

In these cases, a skilled workers’ compensation attorney can protect your rights and fight for you to receive fair compensation. 

Contact McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates Today

McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates has been representing injured employees in workers’ compensation cases for more than four decades. We are highly skilled at what we do, and we have a strong track record to prove it. 

We believe in fighting for the rights of injured workers, and we love what we do. Our attorneys approach every case differently, depending on its own unique circumstances. We listen to our clients and do all the legal legwork so they can focus on their recovery. 

McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates is also proud to represent the families of workers who have been killed in on-the-job accidents, helping them to recover compensation for funeral costs and other end-of-life expenses.

We have seven offices across the Midlands of South Carolina, in Aiken, CamdenColumbiaLexingtonNewberryOrangeburg, and Sumter

McWhirter, Bellinger & Associates would love to give you a free case evaluation, so call us today at 888-353-5513. It won’t cost you anything to see if we can help.®