If you’ve been hurt at work, you may be missing paychecks as you recover, the bills may be piling up, and you probably have questions.

Like, how much is my workers’ compensation going to pay? Is it going to pay, or is the insurance company going to leave me hanging? Will they try to shortchange me or deny my claim completely? How do I know what I am entitled to receive under SC’s workers’ compensation laws?

In this article, we will discuss how workers’ compensation benefits are calculated, including:

  • How wage replacement benefits are calculated,
  • Which medical expenses are covered, and
  • How permanent disability settlements are calculated.

Calculating Workers’ Compensation in SC

There are limits to what workers’ compensation benefits will pay in SC.

For example, unlike in a civil lawsuit, you cannot recover punitive damages or non-economic damages like compensation for pain and suffering.

You can, however, receive compensation for your wages when you miss time at work and your medical expenses when appropriate, and a final settlement for any permanent disability caused by the work injury.

How are Temporary Disability Benefits Calculated?

Wage Replacement Benefits

After a work injury that causes you to miss time at work, you are entitled to wage-replacement benefits that pay a portion of your average weekly wage.

Average weekly wage: Your average weekly wage (AWW) is your “baseline” for calculating your workers’ compensation benefits.

SC Code Section 42-1-40 provides the method for calculating your average weekly wage. In most cases, you will add your total wages for the four quarters (52 weeks) preceding the quarter in which you were injured and divide that total by 52 to arrive at the average weekly wage.

If you did not work for the full 52 weeks before the work injury, you can add your total wages for the number of weeks that you worked before the accident and divide the total by the number of weeks that you used.

What if you haven’t been on the job for very long at all?

If you haven’t been employed for long, or if for some reason “it is impracticable to compute the weekly wages as defined” in the code section above, your AWW can be calculated by referencing the average weekly wages of “a person of the same grade and character employed in the same class of employment in the same locality or community.”

Compensation rate: You won’t be paid the full amount of your average weekly wage, though. The compensation rate for workers’ compensation benefits in SC is two-thirds of your average weekly wage.

There is a minimum compensation rate of $75 per week (subject to change from year to year) and a maximum compensation rate that is adjusted each year (in 2023, the maximum compensation rate is $1035.78 per week).

Medical Expenses

Workers’ compensation will also pay your medical expenses, which could include:

  • Hospital bills,
  • Doctors’ bills,
  • Emergency care,
  • Medications,
  • Medical equipment,
  • Physical rehabilitation, and
  • Any other reasonable medical costs resulting from the work injury.

How are Permanent Disability Benefits Calculated?

When your physicians decide that you have reached “maximum medical improvement” (your condition is not likely to improve with further treatments), you will be assigned an “impairment rating” and a “disability rating” that will determine the amount of your final settlement.

Impairment Ratings and Disability Awards

Your permanent disability benefits are determined in part by your impairment rating and disability rating:

  • Impairment ratings: estimates the loss of use of a body part that was caused by your work injury.
  • Disability Awards: estimates how the impairment will affect your ability to perform your work duties.

Based on your impairment rating issued by your authorized treating physician you can determine the approximate disability award you might receive at a hearing and your claim may be resolved by agreement or you can pursue a hearing in front of a Workers’ Compensation Commission who will issue a disability award which puts a monetary value on your workers’ compensation injury.

At this stage of your case, the medical testimony and medical evidence explaining how your injuries affect your ability to perform your job can make a real difference in how your workers’ compensation benefits are calculated and the amount of your final settlement.

Maximum Compensation for Loss of a Body Part

How is the maximum compensation available for total or partial permanent disability calculated?

SC Code Section 42-9-30 lists each body part and the maximum number of weeks that you can receive benefits based on the loss of use of that body part.

For example, if you lose the use of a thumb, you should receive two-thirds of your average weekly wage for up to 65 weeks. If you lose the use of a hand, the maximum compensation is 185 weeks. You can get 140 weeks’ compensation for the loss of an eye, or up to 500 weeks for the most serious injuries.

You may also be entitled to receive compensation for up to 50 weeks for “serious permanent disfigurement of the face, head, neck, or other area normally exposed in employment,” or compensation for scarring and disfigurement in addition to compensation for loss of use of a body part.

Questions About How Workers’ Compensation is Calculated in SC?

Your South Carolina worker’s compensation lawyer will help you to file your claim, prepare your medical evidence, calculate your workers’ compensation benefits, and represent you before the workers’ compensation commission for any hearings and appeals.

Call now at 803-356-2800 or send us a message online to speak with a SC worker’s compensation lawyer today.

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