Change for Workers’ Compensation Cases

Posted by & filed under Workers' Comp.

Workers’ compensation cases have a fairly linear process, designed to move along a similar path to each other from beginning to end. However, in rare instances, the condition for which you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits will change after the fact, either for better or worse, and a reassessment may be a good option to pursue. It is important that you know how to handle this change, and do not get left out of receiving what may be a different amount of benefits.

After An Award

If you have been awarded benefits by the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC), they are generally payable either for ten weeks, or beyond that “for such time as will tend to lessen the period of disability,” as stated in South Carolina Code (SCC) Section 42-15-60. However, some conditions are progressive in nature, and the period where treatment will ‘lessen the period of disability’ may be significant. If your condition has significantly worsened within twelve months of the original injury, you are able to file a motion to reopen your case.

SCC Sec. 42-17-90 lays out the criteria for a reevaluation on the basis of changed condition in full. The injured person must be able to prove “by a preponderance of the evidence” that their condition has changed as a result of the original injury, or because of a condition stemming from the original injury. This does include subsidiary conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or anxiety, but it is significantly harder to prove a mental disorder flows naturally from a physical disorder than does another physical disorder.

Barriers To Reopening Your Claim

While in theory, everyone who experiences a change in their work-related injury may file for a reopening, there are two major barriers that prevent many from doing so. The first is the statute of limitations on reopening workers’ compensation cases. Sec. 42-17-90 states that the claim must be filed within one year of the last compensation payment on your original award, and there are no exceptions of any kind to this rule. If you are one day late to file, the statute has tolled and you are out of luck.

The second barrier many face in filing reevaluation claims is if they have signed what is referred to in many states as a “compromise and release”, but is called a “clincher agreement” in South Carolina. A clincher agreement is essentially a lump sum payment to the injured worker. It must meet the approval of the SCWCC, so as to ensure compliance with public policy considerations. If it does, and the injured worker signs it, they are essentially cutting off all future legal rights to reevaluation of their claim. The rationale is that a clincher is meant to be the last word in the matter, and to permit further legal wrangling would undermine the value of contracts – if someone reads and signs a contract, they are not permitted to unilaterally disregard it. If you have signed a clincher agreement, you may not file to have your workers’ compensation award reevaluated.

Get A Professional On Your Side

If you are unsure as to whether or not you are still able to file to have your case reevaluated, or if you simply are unsure as to whether or not you would qualify, contacting a professional can help get some answers. The dedicated North Charleston workers’ compensation attorneys at Callihan & Syracuse have years of experience dealing with the SCWCC and its rules and regulations. We are happy to put that knowledge to work for you. Contact us today for a free consultation.