One of the greatest concerns I hear from individuals who have suffered a work-related injury is how will they be able to afford their routine and daily living expenses during their period of treatment with physicians. This is often one of the most difficult questions an attorney must answer who practices in the area of workers' compensation, because employees who are taken out of work completely or are restricted from performing work at full duty will not be fully compensated on a temporary basis as they were before his/her work-related injury.
Assume an employee has been injured and has had his/her injuries evaluated by a physician. This particular physician authorizes the employee to return to work full duty without restriction. For most employees, they will continue to receive treatment from the physician and continue to work earning their normal wage. But what happens when the authorized treating physician removes the employee from work completely or the employee is released to light duty and his/her hours are reduced or their wages are reduced during the treatment period? Below is information on how employees, who suffer a work-related injury, will be temporarily compensated during their case.
Temporary Total Disability Benefits: This particular benefit is reserved for those employees who are completely disabled and an authorized treating physician completely restricts the employee's work for a specific period of time. The South Carolina Workers' Compensation Act allows for an employee to be compensated for lost wages at a rate of two-thirds (2/3) of his/her average weekly wage.
To calculate the employee's average weekly wage, the most common scenario involves looking at the four quarters of earning before the quarter of the employee's work-related injury. This includes regular compensation, overtime wages, commission and bonuses. Once the employee calculates the total amount he/she has earned over those four quarters he/she will divide that amount by the number of weeks those earnings were paid over. This amount is the Average Weekly Wage (AWW). The amount that will be paid to the injured employee on a weekly basis will be two-thirds (2/3) of the AWW amount. Keep in mind that this benefit is temporary and is designed to only last until the employee's treating physician determines that he/she is at maximum medical improvement (MMI) and is released from medical care.
Temporary Partial Disability Benefits: This particular benefit is for those employees who suffer a work-related injury and the injury prevents the employee from doing certain work-related duties. Assume an employee suffers a work-related injury and is placed on light duty during the course of their approved medical treatment. And as a result of this light duty, the employee's employer reduces the amount of the employee's pay by way of job reassignment or a reduction in the employee's work hours. The South Carolina Workers' Compensation Act protects the employee and provides for compensation at a rate of two-thirds (2/3) of the difference between the employee's current wages while on light duty and the gross average weekly wage before the work-related injury. Assume an employee was making $500.00 per week before the work-related injury and that amount is reduced to $350.00 per week while on light duty. The difference between the two wages is $150.00 and thus South Carolina law entitles an injured employee a weekly payment of two-thirds (2/3) of this amount in addition to the employee's regular weekly wages.
Please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss your workers' compensation issues.
~ Joshua A. Bailey (January 2014)