Every year thousands of workers are injured while at work. Fortunately, under South Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Laws, a person who is injured during the course of their employment can generally expect to receive financial support either during their recovery period, or even indefinitely depending on the extent of their injury, and to what degree they are considered disabled.
However, the process of assessing a worker’s impairment can be confusing, and at times a doctor’s assessment may be influenced by other factors other than the facts in front of them. If you have suffered an injury while at work, contact a skilled workers’ compensation lawyer today. Your attorney can attempt to ensure that your assessment of impairment rating in Charleston is fair and accurate.
Workers’ Compensation Process
Before a worker can understand the impact of an assessment of impairment rating in Charleston, it is important that they understand the workers’ compensation system in South Carolina and the process that an injured worker must generally go through before they are entitled to compensation. The process is as follows:
- A worker gives notice of their injury to their employer within 90 days of the accident
- A worker receives medical treatment from a doctor approved by their employer’s workers’ compensation insurer
- The employer reports the accident and injury to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission
- The employer either accepts or rejects the claim
- If the employer fails to report an accident, denies the worker was injured, or a worker challenges the proposed amount, the worker files a claim with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission
- The parties will attend a mediation and either reach a settlement or they will go to a hearing
- At a hearing, a Commissioner will hear the claim and will issue a decision
- If either party disagrees with the claim they can appeal to a three-member panel of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission.
- If either party disagrees with the panel’s decision they can file an appeal within 14 days to the South Carolina Court of Appeals
- Finally, if the parties have not reached a resolution after a case before the South Carolina Court of Appeals, they may file with the South Carolina Supreme Court
Assessing Impairment Ratings
When an employee has been injured, it is important that they seek prompt medical attention, however, they should be mindful that in order to receive workers’ compensation payments they will have to go to a doctor that is approved by their employer’s insurance carrier.
During the medical treatment phase of a workers’ compensation case, a doctor will make a medical determination as to what a worker’s maximum medical improvement is, and then will determine if the worker is permanently impaired, and further to what extent. Any time a worker is concerned what their impairment rating will be, they must understand the term maximum medical improvement.
In the context of the workers’ compensation system, maximum medical improvement is a factual determination that is determined by the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission and means that an injured worker has reached a level where there is no more medical care or treatment that can alleviate the injury and or provide significant improvement.
Once there is an agreement as to a worker’s maximum medical improvement, a doctor will then determine an impairment rating which will determine whether a worker is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits and how much.
How Does a Doctor Assess an Impairment Rating?
A doctor will determine an injured worker’s impairment rating by reviewing the worker’s medical records and evidence. A doctor will examine and consider the following:
- The degree of injury
- Functional limitations
- Loss of mobility and decrease in the range of motion
- Overall disfigurement
- Surgical procedures
- Required physical therapy
- Any work restrictions
The doctor will consider all of these factors and others and additionally, will analyze the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. While a doctor will make a recommendation for a worker’s impairment rating, the South Carolina Workers Compensation Commission ultimately decides the impairment rating.
However, unfortunately sometimes doctors who are employed by a company’s insurance company will not provide a fair impairment rating in light of the injury, and in these cases a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation lawyer may be able to help by working with third-party specialists to provide an independent medical examination to help provide the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission with a more accurate gauge of an injury. If you want to know more about the assessment of impairment rating in Charleston, get in touch with a skilled workers’ compensation attorney today.