Obtaining workers’ compensation benefits is not always as easy as it is meant to be for the average worker. There are many legal terms that have meanings more complex than they sound at first. One of these workers’ compensation ‘terms of art’ is the average weekly wage. School children are taught what the word average means, and as those children grow older and join the workforce, they learn what wages are. It would seem then, that calculating someone’s average weekly wage could be done by the most inexperienced of us. That is not the case in many situations and unfortunately, an injured worker does not find out the true meaning of a word until it is too late in the process. Understanding these terms at the outset of the process is key to full recovery.
What many injured workers do not realize is that while they are entitled to immediate wages after an injury in the workplace, the law limits the amount that they can receive. Workers’ compensation laws limit the wages payable to an employee to 66 ⅔ percent of their average weekly wage. Further, South Carolina limits the maximum amount a person can receive in weekly benefits to $784.03. This means that even if the calculated percentage of an individual’s weekly wage average is greater than this amount, that person cannot receive the higher amount. While this may seem unfair, the good news is that this amount is not subject to taxes, which means that the entire amount is payed to the employee. Further, the workers’ compensation system also makes employers (or their insurers) pay for the medical care required by the employee to help him/her recover from the workplace injury. In some instances, incidental costs may also be recoverable, such as mileage to and from a doctor’s appointment.
The system is designed to protect both employers and employees in the event of an accident in the workplace. The employer is protected against protracted and expensive litigation, as well as a potential finding of negligence. The argument for this protection is to allow employers the freedom to make repairs or change policies to ensure others are not injured in the same way. One way that an injured employee can obtain alternative coverage than the state maximum is through a negotiated lump-sum settlement. The law allows settlement negotiations to occur at any point during the process. Depending on the severity of the injury and whether the worker is ready and able to return to work, settlement is often a good solution for both sides. A worker who settles his case for a lump sum payment can often return to work and is no longer forced to participate in the legal process. The employee should be cautious whenever engaging in settlement discussions, as medical benefits cease once a settlement is entered into by the parties. If a worker may need additional care in the future, the settlement amount should reflect a sum that takes the cost of that care into consideration.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a workplace accident, call the Dan Pruitt Injury Law Firm and get real answers to your questions about recovery. Our experienced Greenville, SC workers’ compensation attorneys can help you understand the process and help you obtain the relief you are entitled to recover from your employer.