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Can I Be Fired for Filing Workers’ Comp in South Carolina?


Sustaining an injury is always stressful but can be even more wearisome when that injury is sustained on the job. After sustaining an injury on the job, you may not feel your best and, as a result, experience uncertainty about your ability to meet your job’s demands. You may also worry that your employer will be unhappy if you file a workers’ compensation claim for the injury and consequently fire you.

The good news is that under South Carolina law, your employer cannot fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim. It is your right to seek workers’ compensation benefits after sustaining an injury during your employment.

What Does Workers’ Comp Cover?

Workers’ compensation coverage will reimburse you for:

  • Medical costs you may have incurred since being injured
  • If you’re unable to work: a certain percentage of your average weekly wage—specifically, an amount equal to two-thirds of your average weekly income based on the four quarters prior to your injury
  • Wages you may have lost from needing to rest or attend medical appointments
  • Travel-related expenses for medical appointments—if the roundtrip distance is more than ten miles from your home
  • Permanent disability benefits, depending on the severity of your injury

It is prudent to retain the representation of a capable attorney to guide you in the complex process of filing your claim. Having a skilled attorney represent you in your workers’ compensation claim will help you feel confident moving forward in the process—because the right support can make a world of difference when you are going through a difficult time and struggling with your health.

Why You Can’t Be Fired

South Carolina is considered a “right to work” state. This means that an employer can fire an employee for a multitude of reasons—except illegal ones. In South Carolina, it is illegal for an employer to fire an employee as retaliation for that employee filing a workers’ compensation claim. This would be considered wrongful termination and could result in the employer facing a civil lawsuit.

Some people worry that securing the representation of an attorney will upset their employer. Rest assured that an attorney experienced in handling workers’ compensation claims will know how to assist you every step of the way. Receiving the help of an attorney will benefit you when it comes to communicating with your employer after filing a workers’ compensation claim.

First: Report the Injury

After getting injured on the job, you must report the incident to your employer within 90 days. You will be filing a claim with your employer and their insurance carrier. You should also request medical treatment if necessary. If you miss the 90-day window, the process of receiving workers’ comp can become more difficult and you may not receive benefits.

Next, you will need to file a claim through the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission (SCWCC).

It is important to note that while you must report your injury within 90 days, you have up to two years to file a claim for benefits.

Scenario 1: Employer Agrees to Claim

According to the law, your employer has the right to select the doctor who will treat you for your injury. If you wish to see a doctor not selected by your employer, you will likely have to pay for the visit with your insurance or out of pocket.

After evaluating your injury, the doctor will determine if you are able to return to work.

Light Duty

If the doctor orders light work for you, you must accept the order to return to work, or risk losing your workers’ compensation benefits.

The order also means your employer is given the opportunity to accommodate your physical restrictions.

Your employer may determine that light duty is not available for you and instead opt for you to receive a weekly workers’ compensation check.

Maximum Medical Improvement

Maximum Medical Improvement, or MMI, means your doctor has determined that you have reached a point in your recovery at which you are not expected to improve. The doctor will also issue an impairment rating denoting what sort of restrictions should be enforced for you at work in the future, based on the state of your injury.

If a doctor declares that you have reached MMI, this could mean resolution of your claim and termination of your workers’ compensation benefits. At times, doctors declare a patient has reached MMI only because it will benefit their employer.

If you disagree with the doctor’s MMI determination and feel you need continuing medical treatment, then it is vital you secure the representation of an attorney.

Permanent and Total Disability

In certain cases, the doctor may determine your injury will prevent you from returning to work in any capacity. If this is the case, the SCWCC will grant you permanent and total disability (P&T). P&T awards are typically 500 weeks long and may not include any temporary total disability payments you’ve already received.

The SCWCC also awards lifetime weekly benefits to eligible workers’ compensation claimants declared to have P&T, such as those who have suffered permanent brain damage, paraplegia, or quadriplegia.

Scenario 2: Employer Denies Claim

It’s possible that your employer might deny your workers’ compensation claim for various reasons. For instance, your employer could claim:

  • Your injury is not covered by workers’ compensation
  • You waited too long to file the claim
  • You didn’t provide documentation necessary to file the claim

We Can Help You Appeal a Workers’ Compensation Claim

Here’s how our legal team can help you appeal a workers’ compensation claim that has been denied. The appeals process takes several steps, and we will direct you with filing the proper forms.

  • Mediation: This is the route to take if you and your employer agree that you wish to avoid the court system. A mediator, or objective outside party, will speak with you and your employer (this could be done separately or together) to reach a settlement.
  • Hearing: If your employer denies your claim, you can request a hearing with the SWCC. During the hearing, both you and your employer will present your respective testimonies and evidence. The commission will then give their decision, which either you or your employer can appeal within 14 days.
    • Panel Hearing: If you or your employer appeal the SWCC’s decision, then you both will present your case in another hearing to a panel of three commissioners, not including the commissioner from the previous hearing. If one of you decides to appeal their decision, then you will have another hearing with the Full Commission, or panel of six commissioners.
      • Court Appeal: If you or your employer appeal the Full Commission’s decision, then you would file an appeal to the Court of Appeals. Only one more appeal is possible after this step, and it would be made to the South Carolina Supreme Court. Neither you nor your employer can appeal the final decision issued by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

In some cases, mediation is not the ideal route to take for reaching a settlement due to animosity between the employee and employer. In cases like this, it can be better to begin the appeals process by attending a hearing.

What if I Don’t Want to Return to My Job?

It’s understandable if you don’t want to return to your job after a work-related injury, especially if your employer tried to fire you.

If this you are in this situation, our legal team can pursue one of the following types of settlements:

  • An agreement that continues to cover the costs of additional medical treatment needed for your injury—you would have one year from the settlement to file a change-of-condition claim and receive more medical benefits
  • A “clincher” agreement in which benefits typically cease
  • An “indemnity-only clincher” agreement in which continuing medical treatment is covered

We understand that manifold options and scenarios in your workers’ compensation claim might be overwhelming—and that’s why we’re here to help.

Call Us Today!

Our reliable, skilled legal team at Masella Law Firm, P.A. has been helping clients receive just compensation since 1998. We are dedicated to aiding our clients to understand the workers’ compensation benefits they may be entitled to and navigate the complicated process of filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Our team has assisted a myriad of clients with workers’ compensation claims like yours. We are here to help!

Call us at (803) 938-4952 to schedule your consultation today.