The Timeline of a Workers’ Compensation Claim
If you have sustained work-related injuries and cannot work, you can recover up to two-thirds of lost wages, medical expenses, and other disability benefits. Unfortunately, these claims can take some time, and you might worry about the financial burdens you are facing in the meantime.
Why Hire a Workers’ Comp Attorney?
Knowing how to handle a workers’ comp claim will ensure the process goes as quickly as possible. An attorney is the best way to accomplish this for the following reasons:
A workers’ compensation lawyer is your best bet for maximizing your claim. A workers’ comp employer or adjuster might tell you their offer is fair, but that doesn’t mean it is. An attorney who knows the system will know just how much compensation you deserve.
An application error or oversight can cost you valuable time before your claim is approved. An attorney knows how to form a properly supported and proven claim, which can get you approved faster.
What Are The Steps After I’ve Been Injured At Work?
After you’ve been injured, how long it will take to receive compensation depends on the local office, your adjuster, the facts of your claim, and the severity of your injury. Here is a typical timeline for most workers’ compensation claims:
You Notify your Employer
After you’ve been injured, you have 90 days from the date of the event to notify your employer. While this may seem like plenty of time, time in the hospital or other similar recovery factors can eat up the time you have, so don’t wait and notify your employer as quickly as possible. If you don’t, your claim will most likely be denied. Giving immediate notice will only help the process go more smoothly for you.
Your Employer Reports the Claim
Your employer has 10 days to report your claim to the South Carolina Workers’ Comp Commission after you’ve notified them of your injuries. The faster your employer completes this step, the faster you will get compensated, so make sure they report your claim before the 10 days are up. Your employer could face both civil and criminal penalties if they fail to report within this time limit. At this point, you should hire an attorney to take the reigns to ensure your employer acts responsibly.
You File the Formal Paperwork
If you got your employer to file with the Commission, don’t sit back and relax just yet, you now have two years to file your formal claim and the resulting paperwork. The clock starts ticking the minute you become aware of your injury, not the date your employer reported the claim. It’s important then to know your injury date, not the date you gave notice to your employer.
Your Claim is Investigated
Next, your claim will be investigated by your employer and the workers’ comp carrier. At this point, you will be asked several questions about the incident that led to your injuries. This process can take anywhere from a few weeks to over a year, depending on how complicated your case is or if your employer contests the claim.
Responding quickly and sufficiently to any of their questions will speed up this process and eliminate any delays.
Your Claim is Either Approved, Denied, or Contested
You might get a quick approval if your claim is thorough and well-established. If this happens, you could begin to see benefits within 15-45 days.
On the other hand, if your responses weren’t sufficient to the workers’ comp carrier or your employer, unfortunately, your claim might get denied. Especially if the cause, nature, or extent of your injuries becomes questioned or the claim is contested for other reasons.
A contested claim outlines a response to the allegations you made when you submitted the formal paperwork. At this point, a mediator could become involved, or your claim might get scheduled for a hearing with a workers’ comp hearing commissioner, which could take another 1-3 months.
Before the date of the hearing, negotiations will often take place to try and resolve the contested issues and facts. Having a lawyer during this process could help you avoid the extra time a hearing would take while still getting you the compensation you deserve.
You Appeal the Denied Claim
If you were notified that your claim was denied and you weren’t awarded damages, your next option is to appeal the decision. Either party may appeal after an “opinion and award is issued. Once this has been done, it can take another 2 to 4 months as additional briefs and arguments are submitted. Hopefully, you will hire an excellent attorney to keep you from getting to this point.
What if Your Appeal is Denied?
A denied appeal means you must file an additional appeal to a circuit court within 14 days. Your claim will then be moved from the administrative agency to the court system, which can take 12 months or longer. Most workers’ comp claims are resolved in negotiations, and it is rare for claims to make it to this point.
The timeline of a workers’ comp claim varies case by case, and the above steps are just a guide for reference. Although filing a workers’ comp claim does not require a lawyer, they often prove helpful in getting you fair compensation faster. If you know you have a complicated case, don’t wait until the last minute to hire an attorney, have one assisting you from the very beginning, and you will have a much better experience than trying to do it all on your own.