How to get maximum compensation for your work injury claim
Currently, there are 94 hospitals in South Carolina and almost 74,000 licensed nurses. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated how much the general public relies on health care workers to maintain public health and safety, and the health care industry is only as strong as the health of its workers.
Health care is undoubtedly a dangerous industry. People who work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and medical offices are usually among the first to be exposed to infectious diseases. Health care workers also face unique hazards like radiation exposure, needle sticks and violent patients.
Fortunately, South Carolina health care workers are entitled to receive medical and financial support to help them recover from injuries sustained in the course of their employment.
Common workplace injuries among health care workers
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), hospital workers experience more injuries and illnesses annually—6 cases for every 100 full-time workers— than workers in other industries that are generally thought of as more dangerous, like construction.
The following are some of the most common injuries experienced by health care workers:
- Overexertion injuries. According to 2015 data from the BLS, most nonfatal workplace injuries among hospital workers were overexertion injuries from activities like lifting or moving patients, which accounted for approximately 45% of health care worker injuries in the U.S.
- Slip-and-fall injuries. The second most common cause—slips, trips and falls—accounted for about 25% of health care worker injuries that year. Hospitals have hard floor surfaces that require frequent cleaning. Workers in a health care setting are often required to move at a quick pace. Therefore, hospital floors pose an elevated risk for slip-and-fall accidents that can cause strains, sprains, and fractures.
- Repetitive motion injuries. Workers also sustain injuries performing work that requires repetitive motions, like typing.
- Infectious disease. In other cases, workers contract illnesses due to exposure to others who have an illness, contaminated bodily fluids or needle sticks with infected needles.
- Chemical and radiation exposure. Hospitals use chemicals for cleaning, and they have equipment like X-ray machines that can injure workers over time through hazardous exposure.
- Violence. Hospital workers who work directly with the public, especially in the emergency department or mental health settings, are more likely to encounter distressed people before they receive treatment. Unfortunately, these encounters can result in a health care worker being struck or otherwise injured while in close proximity to a destabilized patient or visitor.
- Back injury. Healthcare workers are often required to perform physically demanding tasks such as lifting and moving patients. The repetitive strain and heavy lifting involved in these tasks can put a great deal of stress on the back, leading to conditions such as lower back pain, herniated discs, and spinal injuries.
In the news:
Health care workers attacked while on the job
Recently, a North Carolina health care worker, Paul Messina, left his job as an emergency medical technician (EMT) due to violence. He reported that health care workers at the facility where he worked have come to expect violent encounters on a weekly basis. Messina recounted a time that he sustained a torn rotator cuff while restraining an unstable patient who had attacked several people in the hospital’s emergency department. Approximately 10 staff members sustained injuries during the incident.
Workers’ compensation in the health care industry
In South Carolina, most employers with 4 or more employees are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance to their workers.
Often referred to as workers comp, workers’ compensation is a type of insurance employers carry to provide benefits to workers who become injured or contract an illness while working.
One major advantage for workers who file a claim is the workers’ comp system does not consider whether the worker or the employer was at fault for the accident that caused the resulting injury. Injured workers only need to prove that their injury occurred within the course and scope of their job.
The injured worker may file a workers’ comp claim and receive payments to cover the following:
- Medical expenses including surgeries, doctor and emergency room visits, rehabilitation, medication and medical devices and equipment
- Lost wages while you’re unable to work or can only work in a limited capacity. The amount is typically two-thirds of your average weekly wage.
- Death benefits for certain dependents if you die from a work-related injury.
While workers’ comp laws vary from state to state, most people who are employed by a South Carolina hospital can generally file a claim if they’re injured at work.
Am I eligible for workers’ compensation as a healthcare worker?
Most South Carolina health care workers are entitled to file a workers’ comp claim for occupational illnesses and injuries. However, there are some exceptions. Federal employees must file claims through the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA).
Other exceptions include:
- Casual or as-needed workers
- Most 1099 contractors
- Sole proprietors
- Workers who intentionally inflict injury on themselves
- Workers who were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident
- Workers who are injured while committing a crime
How to file a workers’ compensation claim for injured healthcare workers
To ensure your chance to obtain workers’ comp benefits after an injury, injured health care workers should take the following steps:
- Seek medical care. Always see a doctor as soon as possible after your injury. The doctor will be able to provide documentation that links your injury to a work event. Failure to get medical help after a work injury can make it much more difficult to obtain workers’ compensation.
- Report your injury to your employer. To initiate a workers’ comp claim, you must report the injury to your employer within 90 days of the accident that caused the injury.
- Verify that your employer filed a claim. Your employer is required to file a claim after you give them notice of your injury. Follow up to make sure the claim has been filed.
- Contact an attorney. If your employer does not file a claim with their insurance provider, you may do so yourself by filing Form 50, but we highly recommend contacting an attorney to help you with the process. If your claim is denied, a workers’ comp attorney can also help you file an appeal.
Challenges under workers’ comp law
If a worker’s claim is denied or contested by the employer, the worker or his or her attorney may file Form 50. The employer’s insurance company will file an answer on Form 51.
The case will then be scheduled on the Workers’ Compensation Commission’s docket, and an individual Commissioner will be assigned. A hearing typically takes place within 3 to 5 months. The Commissioner will act as a fact-finder and make a ruling on the case.
An experienced workers’ comp attorney can guide you through the process and ensure that evidence is collected and presented to support your claim.
Contact a South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney
Health care workers who are injured while selflessly taking care of others shouldn’t have to worry about paying their medical bills and providing for their families after a work injury. At Chappell, Chappell and Newman., our attorneys can help you navigate the workers’ comp process so you can get the compensation you need to focus on recovering from your injury.
If you’ve been injured on the job in South Carolina, contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Chappell, Chappell and Newman. Our attorneys have recovered millions of dollars for injured workers across the state of South Carolina, and we’d love the opportunity to help you, too.
Contact us today for a free consultation.