Learn what types of damages may be available in your workers’ comp case
A serious work injury can be life-changing. You might be experiencing not just physical injuries—but also pain and suffering. South Carolina law uses “pain and suffering” to describe compensable damages in a personal injury lawsuit for physical pain or mental anguish (which includes emotional distress) that results from the injury or accident.
South Carolina laws for pain and suffering in a personal injury lawsuit
“Pain and suffering” refers to the physical and emotional pain a person experiences after an accident or injury. Compensation for pain and suffering falls under the category of non-economic damages, which is compensation for non-financial losses that result after an injury.
South Carolina law includes recovery for fright, nervousness, grief, anxiety, worry, mortification or humiliation, shock, indignity, embarrassment, apprehension, terror or ordeal under this definition.
The injury itself need not cause these feelings—often, a person who has been seriously injured could experience sleep disruptions, ongoing pain or discomfort, fear of medical treatment, worry about future medical recovery, concern about their ability to continue to work and make a living, and other financial concerns. A person might not feel embarrassed by the accident itself but might feel indignity or ridicule because of the resulting disability or disfigurement.
South Carolina courts don’t have a formula or standard for calculating pain and suffering; it is left to the discretion of the court on a case-by-case basis. Usually, the court awards pain and suffering damages based on the frequency, severity and duration of pain.
Some of the factors considered when awarding pain and suffering damages in South Carolina include:
- Age of the injured person
- Severity of the physical injuries
- Need for medical attention
- Health condition before the accident
- Duration of recovery
- Ways the accident impedes daily activities
- Ways the accident hinders their ability to enjoy time with family
Find out more: How to calculate pain and suffering in South Carolina
Can you receive pain and suffering benefits from workers’ compensation?
No, South Carolina workers’ compensation benefits do not include pain and suffering. However, there might be a way to obtain these damages through a 3rd-party personal injury lawsuit.
Why isn’t pain and suffering included in South Carolina workers’ comp benefits?
Workers’ compensation provides certain benefits to employees in South Carolina who are injured on the job. All South Carolina employers who have 4 or more employees are required to carry workers’ comp insurance.
Workers’ comp insurance benefits both employers and employees. The employee can receive fast compensation to cover medical bills and wage loss, and it’s a no-fault system. That means the worker doesn’t have to prove that anyone was liable or at fault for the injury. The benefits are available regardless of how the accident happened as long as the worker can prove that it was at work or related to their job.
The benefit to the employer is that the worker may not sue the employer for damages if they’ve already recovered costs under workers’ compensation. This prevents the employer from enduring lengthy and costly litigation. Employees forfeit their right of action against their employer when they receive workers’ compensation benefits.
The reason these laws exist is to streamline the benefits process after a work injury. Removing the requirement to prove fault makes it easier and faster for medical costs to be paid, which helps the employee by permitting them to get the treatment they need without having to pay out of pocket.
South Carolina workers’ compensation benefits
A South Carolina workers’ compensation claim can include:
- Medical benefits. These include reimbursement for medical expenses like hospital visits, surgeries, doctor appointments, medications, rehabilitation and medical devices and equipment.
- Wage loss benefits. If your injury prevents you from working or limits your ability to work, you’re entitled to compensation for lost wages, which is typically two-thirds of your average weekly wages for a period of time that varies depending on your disability.
- Death benefits. The family of a deceased worker can claim benefits that include burial expenses and wage loss benefits to certain dependents.
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3rd-party lawsuits for a worker hurt on the job
If you were severely injured and believe that you’re entitled to damages to cover pain and suffering or other non-economic costs, you might be able to file a 3rd-party lawsuit.
A 3rd-party personal injury lawsuit is a mechanism by which you can claim damages outside of what is permitted by workers’ compensation benefits. You can make a claim for any benefits that would be permitted for a personal injury lawsuit but are not included under workers’ compensation.
However, this lawsuit is not against your employer. You can file a 3rd-party lawsuit if your injury was caused by a person or entity other than your employer.
Here are some examples of 3rd-party lawsuits:
- You were injured because of defective equipment or machinery. You might have a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the equipment.
- You were injured while visiting an off-site location for work. If your job takes you to clients’ homes or offices and you slipped and fell in one of those locations, you might have a premises liability lawsuit against the owner of the property.
- You were making a delivery for your job and were in an accident with another driver. You’re covered under workers’ compensation insurance for a car accident if you were working at the time, but if the injuries are severe and you need to include costs for pain and suffering, you could file a 3rd-party lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
- You were injured because of the actions of a contractor. If your job involves working with employees of other companies or contractors and someone’s negligence results in your being injured, you can file a lawsuit against that person or their employer.
An experienced accident attorney can determine if a 3rd-party lawsuit is possible in your situation.
Calculating pain and suffering damages in South Carolina
The primary difference between damages for pain and suffering and economic damages is that it’s difficult to put a financial value on your pain and suffering.
There are no hard and fast rules for calculating pain and suffering, but the courts take these factors into consideration when determining a damage amount:
- Type of injury
- Amount and type of medications
- Anticipated recovery time and duration
- Whether the injury is permanent or temporary
When to contact a South Carolina workers’ comp attorney
If you’ve been injured in a workplace accident in South Carolina, you might wish to consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer.
There are a few reasons for this:
- If your injury is severe or you anticipate future related medical needs
- If your workers’ compensation claim was denied partially or wholly
- If a 3rd party was responsible for the injury and you wish to make a claim for pain and suffering
- If you’re having trouble navigating the workers’ compensation system and wish to consult an expert
Contact Chappell, Chappell and Newman, for help with your workers’ comp claim
Workers’ compensation cases are often complicated, and legitimate claims are denied every single day. Injuries that prevent you from working can be both physically and financially devastating, so you need the best representation possible to get the compensation you deserve.
At Chappell, Chappell and Newman, our experienced workers’ comp attorneys can work with you to build a case based on the available evidence to prove your injury claim. We can also handle all communications and negotiations with your employer and their insurance company so you can focus on recovering from your injury.
Contact us today for a free consultation of your case.