Workers' compensation benefits can provide a valuable safety net if you are injured and unable to return to work temporarily or permanently. Although South Carolina employers are required to carry insurance to provide coverage for employees injured at work, many factors influence the amount of money you will receive as compensation.
On the other hand, you are not obligated to accept the settlement the insurance company offers the first time. You can renegotiate the settlement or request a hearing with the Workers' Comp Commission and have a judge decide the fair amount the insurance company should pay you.
While accepting the initial offer has its own benefits, you should evaluate your medical situation and the terms of the agreement carefully before agreeing to a settlement.
Read on to learn more about what to consider before accepting a workers' compensation claim.
Type of Settlement
In South Carolina, insurance companies can structure a workers' compensation settlement in two ways: as a clincher settlement or as a Supplemental Agreement for Compensation settlement.
A clincher settlement is an agreement in which the employer's insurance company pays you a lump sum of money in exchange for your agreement to release the insurer and your employer from further liability. This means that after the settlement, you can no longer ask your employer or their insurer to pay for any other expenses related to your injury, even if your injury worsens. A clincher settlement closes your claim.
While the insurance company usually pays a lump sum, you may agree to receive periodic payouts - for example, every week or month - for a fixed period.
A clincher settlement may be a suitable option if you do not expect your injuries to worsen.
Supplemental Agreement for Compensation
With a Supplemental Agreement for Compensation, you will receive weekly benefits based on your wage amount before the injury if the insurance company determines that you have a full or partial permanent disability.
However, unlike a clincher settlement, you can ask for extra compensation if your injuries worsen. To be eligible, you must request the additional benefits within one year of the last compensation payment.
Additionally, under a Supplemental Agreement for Compensation structure, the insurer may continue to pay medical expenses in addition to other benefits. This type of agreement may be suitable if you expect that your injuries will take a longer time to heal.
Considerations for Accepting a Settlement
Before accepting a settlement, ensure that the agreement truly offers you what you deserve based on the nature of your injuries. Several factors to consider include:
Medical costs: Carefully evaluate your condition, including whether you are likely to need additional treatment and the estimated future cost of any treatment.
Permanent partial disability: Even if you sustained partial injuries, as long as these injuries caused a permanent disability, the agreement should compensate you accordingly. Make sure that this is the case.
Past payment: The agreement should include any temporary disability compensation you were not paid within 14 days of your injury. The insurance company may have to pay you a 10% penalty fee of the amount owed to you for not making timely compensation unless your employer can prove that the nonpayment was due to conditions beyond their control and the penalty excluded by the Workers' Compensation Commission.
Advances: Before arriving at an agreement, find out whether the settlement on offer includes or deducts any advance compensation you have already received.
If you have suffered significant injuries, you may require substantial compensation to cover for lost wages and medical costs. In this case, seriously consider involving a skilled workers' compensation lawyer to help you negotiate a fair settlement.
At The McDaniel Law Firm, we understand how challenging dealing with insurers can be when you need compensation for work-related injuries. Fortunately, you do not have to go at it alone. Call us today and let us fight for the benefits you deserve.