What Does ‘Discharged to Light Duty’ Entail?

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Workers’ Compensation and Light Duty Requirements

You were injured on the job and now finally after weeks of doctor’s visits, physical therapy and lots of daytime television; you’re now allowed to return to work, but not in your current position. The only way you will be permitted back at your place of employment is under what is known as “light duty.”

If the position offered is something you can perform in spite of your injuries, for example, answering the phones with a broken leg, then you must return or all compensation may be terminated. If you honestly don’t believe this is in your best interest or that it would be too physically demanding, you can’t walk the two miles from the parking lot to the main office with your broken leg, then you may request a workers’ compensation hearing. This is often a daunting and confusing process which is best left to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.

Perhaps your employer does the right thing, follows your doctor’s orders and offers you an open position which falls under the category of light duty. But unfortunately it pays less per hour than you were earning before the accident. State workers’ compensation law requires if return to light duty work is at a reduced rate of pay then you are entitled to weekly compensation equal to a rate of 66 2/3 percent of the DIFFERENCE between what you were earning before the accident and your new wage.

It is a common occurrence for an injured employee to be released back to light duty only for their employer to say there is nothing available which meets that criteria. Technically your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance is required to continue to pay your complete weekly compensation until you are able to return to full duty. Now at this point, we believe it is important to note your compensation weekly earnings are generally two thirds of your normal rate of pay. The before injury rate is based on your earnings during the four quarters prior to the accident.

Unfortunately in many cases any changes in workers’ compensation status often results in a delay in checks being issued.  South Carolina law does not penalize insurance companies for these delays. Again, this is a situation where a hearing may be necessary in order to demand your checks be delivered in a timely manner along with the 10 percent late fee penalty the law allows to be paid. Because, the same South Carolina law also allows a 14 day grace period before they consider these checks to be delinquent, it is imperative to consult with a workers’ compensation attorney to help you navigate all these complicated and frustrating rules and regulations. 

If before the accident you were working a standard 40 hour week, then your workers’ compensation will also be for 40 hours, but at the above discussed two thirds rate. Upon returning to modified duties, if the position doesn’t warrant the same amount of hours, you may be eligible for the difference in hourly wages, again paid at the two thirds rate.

As you can see, something that should be so straightforward: you get hurt on the job, your employer has insurance to cover your medical bills and lost wages, can quickly deteriorate into a situation which can easily threaten your family’s financial security. Don’t wait until it’s too late, please contact the Dan Pruitt Injury Law Firm to make sure you understand all your legal rights.

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