Columbia, SC Workers' Compensation Attorneys

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We all depend on our income from our jobs and no one plans to get hurt in the workplace. But even the most cautious, responsible employees can suddenly find themselves in a terrible situation with a work-related injury or illness.

Most people aren’t prepared for being out of work temporarily or long-term because of a workplace accident. Thankfully, we have workers’ compensation laws and insurance available to protect many injured workers and provide a means of support and compensation when needed.

At Burriss and Ridgeway, we are experienced workers’ compensation attorneys who understand the South Carolina workers’ compensation system.

What to Do if You Are Hurt at Work in Columbia, SC

If you realize that you have been injured on the job, there are some important steps to take to be sure that you are well-taken care of in the future.

If you have had a serious injury, please don’t wait, but talk to a law firm to find the best workers’ compensation lawyer who can help you protect your rights.

The Most Common Types of Injuries that Occur in the Workplace in South Carolina

There is really no limit to the ways people can be injured on the job. Someone may end up in a car accident while they are driving to a business presentation. A moment of distraction may lead to an employee tangling with a dangerous machine. Or a construction worker may come in contact with asbestos, resulting in mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer, later in life.

While there are countless ways people may be hurt on the job, there are several main categories that seem to happen most frequently.

Slip and Fall Injuries

A slip and fall injury typically occurs when there is a wet or slippery surface on the floor or the property and an employee doesn’t see the danger. They step onto the surface and lose traction, causing them to fall. 

This category also usually includes tripping hazards, as well. Maybe the carpet has a loose area that creates a lump and someone trips. Or maybe someone inadvertently left something on the floor in an unsafe location. Another employee didn’t see it, then trips and falls.

In 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, private industries had 240,160 slip and fall injuries in the workplace. Almost 35,000 of them resulted in days away from work. And there were 791 fatal work-related falls, slips, and trips across all sectors of industry.

When people fall, injuries typically happen. It could be something fairly minor like a sprained wrist or a fall could cause a slipped disc, a broken hip, a neck injury, a concussion, a traumatic brain injury, or other broken bones.

Vehicle/Transportation Accidents

Many people drive for a living like truck drivers, ambulance drivers, taxi-cab drivers, and others. Because they are on the road so much, there is a chance that they could end up in a traffic accident. But other employees sometimes drive places for work, as well—to meetings, to run errands for the boss, or to transport merchandise from one store to another.

Traffic accidents are the top cause of death (first or second place) across every major industry. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1276 work-related roadway fatalities occurred across all sectors in 2018. 

Work-related motor vehicle accidents cost employers $25 billion in 2013, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Of course, some injuries in a motor vehicle accident can be serious and may require extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. Some injuries may be so severe that the worker loses some independence and function in daily life that may be life-changing.

If an employee is on the clock or driving for work and is in an accident, many times the injuries they sustain can qualify for workers’ comp benefits.

Falling Materials

If someone works at a construction site, a warehouse, or factory, there is a chance that something could fall from a height and hit whoever is standing below. Construction site workers know this is a risk so they are required to wear hard hats. But sometimes, materials can fall even in unexpected places.

In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in the US there were:

  • 47,920 nonfatal falling object-related injuries on job sites
  • 255 worker fatalities

If something heavy falls and hits a worker in the head or shoulder, significant injuries can result- a head injury, traumatic brain injury (TBI), skull fracture, shoulder fracture, deep cuts, lacerations, bruises, spinal injury, and other fractures or crush injuries.

These injuries can be severe and certainly require immediate medical treatment.

Repetitive Stress Injuries

Some injuries happen suddenly. Others happen very slowly over time. With a repetitive stress injury (or repetitive strain injury), a worker does the same motion over and over again. They don’t have an injury for a long time. Maybe even many years or decades.

But in time, the repetitive motion can create inflammation, tendonitis, and other problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, or lower back strain that eventually becomes debilitating.

According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are one of the most common reasons for lost or restricted work time among all workers’ injuries. MSD cases in 2013 were 33% of all workers’ compensation cases. Many of these MSD cases involved Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI).

Sometimes physical therapy can help treat or prevent RSIs. The best outcomes happen when people report these kinds of strain injuries early and implement proper ergonomics and training. If the damage of an RSI becomes too severe, surgery and rehabilitation can be necessary. And some injuries can be so significant that people lose the ability to do their job.

Workplace Violence

Sadly, there are entirely too many stories in the news about this issue. We all want our workplaces to be safe havens where everyone enjoys working together and thinks of each other as teammates. 

But the reality is today that some people in our society are not well mentally and emotionally and try to cause harm to others. Even in our places of employment. It’s wise for everyone to be prepared and trained about how to handle an unthinkable situation.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 453 workplace-related homicides occurred across all sectors in 2018. The National Safety Council reports that assaults in 2017 resulted in 18,400 injuries and 458 fatalities.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health divides workplace violence into four categories:

  • Criminal intent
  • Customer/client
  • Worker-on-worker
  • Personal relationship

If you are the victim of workplace violence of any type in your place of employment, you may qualify for workers’ comp benefits for your related physical and emotional injuries.

Fires, Explosions, and Electrocutions

This can happen anywhere if there is a lightning strike or an electrical malfunction. But most often, fires and explosions in the workplace tend to happen in factories around chemicals, machinery, dust, and sparks or flames. And electrical workers tend to bear the brunt of workplace electrocutions.

According to OSHA, this category was the third leading cause of fatalities in the workplace in 2018. 

Burn injuries from fires and explosions can be serious and may require extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. Sometimes burns are so severe that a person’s quality of life and ability to work may be significantly affected.

Occupational Illness (Physical or mental health)

In addition to workplace injuries, some occupations can cause specific diseases or expose people to illness. 

For example, the first responders who were on the scene of 9/11 in New York City were exposed to terrible chemical-laden dust as they worked to rescue people and looked for casualties over those first few weeks after the attack on the World Trade Center. Many of those first responders eventually developed a specific type of lung disease as a direct result of their exposure to breathing the dust while they worked.

Or an EMT may respond to a patient in respiratory distress and end up being exposed to a very contagious pathogen that causes him to have to be quarantined and treated for weeks in the hospital. 

If an employee experiences a violent situation at work or some kind of abuse from a coworker, emotional or mental trauma may result. PTSD and other kinds of mental illnesses that are directly tied to a person’s workplace conditions can be considered occupational hazards.

These kinds of work-related illnesses may be covered by workers’ comp.

Wrongful Death

Sometimes workplace injuries or illnesses tragically result in the death of an employee. If the employee is eligible for workers’ comp benefits and there is proof that the injury or illness leading to the death was work-related, the wrongful death case may be covered by workers’ compensation.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5,250 work-related fatalities across all industry sectors in 2018.

Get medical help immediately if you have a serious injury.
Report the incident to your supervisor as soon as possible, even if it seems minor.
Document any interaction with the insurance company and with your employer in writing.
Follow your doctor’s instructions.

How to Qualify for Workers' Compensation. in South Carolina

Workers’ compensation benefits are intended to provide a safety net for employees who qualify. To qualify, a worker must:

  • Be employed by a company that carries Workers’ comp insurance.
  • Have a work-related injury or illness.
  • Report the incident within the time limits.

If you don’t qualify for workers’ comp, you will need to depend on your own health insurer, any disability policies you may have purchased, and your own funding.

If you are eligible for worker’s comp, it may cover many things including medical bills, (prescriptions, physical therapy, x-rays, medical equipment, hospital bills, doctor’s bills), lost wages, mileage to and from medical treatments, and death benefits.

It’s important to remember that workers’ comp insurance companies may try to minimize what they pay for your case. They may try to get you to agree to a much lower settlement or compensation package than you deserve. If you are hurt on the job, lawyers may need to provide legal representation to help you navigate the hurdles ahead.

Workplace Injury and Fatality Statistics

The good news is that OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is making a difference. Worker injuries and illnesses are down from 10.9 incidents per 100 workers (1972) to 2.8 per 100 (2017). And workplace-related deaths are down in the US from 38 worker deaths per day (1970) to 14 per day (2017).

We celebrate the huge gains in safety in the workplace for employees, but we also know there is still much more work to be done to improve safety for everyone.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 (regarding work-related injuries and fatalities)

  • 2,834,000 nonfatal injuries and illnesses for private industry
  • 900,400 cases involved days missed from work for private industry
  • Median days away from work = 8 for private industry
  • 333,830 emergency room or hospital visits for private industry (37% of cases)
  • 142,230 back injuries occurred on the job in private industry
  • 308,630 sprain, strain, and tear injuries occurred in private industry
  • 5,250 work-related fatalities across all sectors
South Carolina Workers' Compensation lawyer

OSHA’s Fatal Four most common causes of workplace fatalities:

  • 36% falls
  • 10% struck by objects
  • 9% electrocutions
  • 2% caught in between equipment or objects

Our Columbia Workers' Compensation Attorneys Can Help.

Our Workers’ Compensation lawyers are here to help. Contact us today for a free consultation.