Be careful trying to compare one workers’ compensation case to another
Over the course of my career, I have had countless people tell me about what a co-worker was paid for a similar injury . . . or how their cousin received some astronomical amount of money for an injury not even as serious as the one they have . . . etc. It is understandable to want to compare the value of your workers’ compensation case to that of other cases. Sometimes this can even be important in understanding the value of a particular case.
However, you have to be careful when comparing one workers’ compensation case to another for several important reasons, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Everyone has a different compensation rate. Your compensation rate is equal to two-thirds of your average weekly wage (normally taken from the four quarters proceeding the quarter in which you were injured). This is the number that is used in conjunction with your disability rating to determine what your case is worth. The more money a person makes equates to a higher compensation rate, which in turn makes their case more valuable. For example, your big toe is worth 35 weeks of benefits in South Carolina under Sec. 42-9-30(8) the Workers’ Compensation Act. If you had a complete loss of your big toe and your compensation rate was $200.00, you would receive $7,000.00. However, if your compensation rate was $500, you would receive $17,500.00 for the same injury.
- Maximum compensation rates are in place in South Carolina, and those maximum compensation rates change yearly. For example, the maximum compensation rate for 2022 is $963.37, whereas in 2015 the maximum compensation rate was $766.05. If you use the example above of the loss of the big toe, a person who makes $3,000.00 a week in 2022 and has a $963.37 compensation rate would receive $33,717.95, whereas a person who made the same $3,000.00 a week in 2015 and had a $766.05 compensation rate would receive $26,811.75. (See Compensation Rates | Workers’ Compensation Commission (sc.gov)).
- In each workers’ compensation case, how much you get is dictated by which body part you injured. In South Carolina, our Workers’ Compensation Act provides that your arm is worth more than your leg. Your thumb is worth more than your little finger. In other words, every body part has its own pre-set value, so what you injure plays a huge role in how much money you can receive in your case. For example, if you have a $200 compensation rate and you have a 10% rating to your arm, that would be worth $4,400.00. If you have a 10% rating to your leg, that would be worth $3,900.00. (See South Carolina Code of Laws Title 42 Workers’ Compensation.pdf (sc.gov)).
- Whether a person has work restrictions (and how severe those restrictions are) play a role in determining how much money you can get in a given case. If two people had the same compensation rate and the same disability rating to the same body part, but for one person it resulted in them having restrictions against lifting over 10 pounds and the other had restrictions against lifting over 50 lbs., the person with the more severe 10-pound lifting restriction would likely have a more valuable case. Further, what type of job a person has can also affect value. For example, if an office worker with a desk job and a carpenter each have the same compensation rate, the same disability rating for a shoulder injury, and the same restrictions, the carpenter’s case may have more value than the office worker’s case because of the impact a shoulder injury has on their ability to perform their job.
- Whether a person has future medical needs can also affect the value of a case. People heal differently and respond to treatment differently. Some injuries produce lingering problems in some people while they don’t in others. Often times whether (or how much) future medical treatment a person needs can impact the ultimate value of their claim either directly (through allocating money to cover future medical) or indirectly (because it may be seen as evidence of an injury that is either more serious or has greater impact on a given person).
- When you settle a case once and for all (on a “clincher”) you generally receive more money than you do if you settle it in a way that approximates what happens at a hearing (i.e., you get a money award plus the case remains open for a year in the event you have a change of condition for the worse). This has a lot to do with the carrier buying out of the risk of having to leave the case open and do more with it at a later date.
- Different states have different workers’ compensation laws, and very frequently have different values assigned to different body parts or injuries, different rules on how value is computed, etc. In other words, an injury in one state is unlikely to have the same value as the same injury in another state.
- Beware of the internet and social media. It goes without saying that people post all kinds of things on the internet and social media, and often this information is inaccurate (or could even be intentionally misleading). It could be that the person posting information doesn’t understand all the variables that went into determining the value of their particular case. It could be the person posting information lives in a different state. Regardless, any given person is going to have different things from you that impact the value of their particular claim. Even when something is posted that is accurate, it is not always possible to understand everything that went into a particular settlement. Settlements can be creative, and sometimes there could even be things added into a settlement that don’t have a direct tie to the injury itself.
- Some people are just flat lying. Loose talk and exaggeration are a part of life, and that can certainly be true when it comes to people talking about how much they received in a particular case. This is one of the dangers in putting too much stock in things you may overhear (particularly from people you may not know very well).
The preceding list is in no way a complete catalogue of the reasons why you should be cautious in trying to compare your workers’ compensation case to other cases. However, knowing that you likely have numerous things that impact the value of your particular case that likely differ from almost everyone else should assure you that there is only limited value in such comparisons. Ultimately, an experienced attorney should always be able to sit down with you and show you exactly how they are coming up with a value for your case under the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. Moreover, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney that can get involved early can help guide you through the process to not only help maximize the money you receive but explain things along the way such that by the time you get to the end of your case, hopefully everything makes more sense.
If you have been injured at work, call me, Jeremy Dantin, at (864) 660-0465 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no fee to come in and discuss your case to see how we can help you.
Blog post by attorney Jeremy Dantin.
The posts on this website/blog are published as a service to our clients and friends. They are intended to provide general information only and should not be construed to be formal legal advice regarding any specific situation and should not be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship. Success in the past does not indicate the likelihood of success in any future representation.
*Contingency fee is a percentage of total recovery before deducting costs. Clients are not liable for costs if there is no recovery.
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