If you get hurt at work, one of the chief benefits under workers’ compensation is free medical care related to the injury. The first thing to know is, your employer generally doesn’t pay for it out of his pocket—it’s almost always paid by the workers’ compensation insurance company.
Learn This Phrase: Maximum Medical Improvement
How long you get medical benefits often depends on the severity of your injury, especially whether you’ll suffer lingering effects impairing your ability to work. The good news is, workers’ comp must provide free medical care at least until you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI), meaning the doctor decides he’s done all he can to make you better. After that, we all hope you can return to work, having recovered 100% (or close to it) from your injury.
Even after maximum medical improvement, you may still be entitled to a settlement reflecting some permanent disability. That’s usually how it goes for slight injuries, like a stretched muscle where you just need a trip to the doctor and a few visits to physical therapy.
What Happens When Maximum Improvement Isn’t Good Enough?
Not everyone who has a workplace injury is so lucky to have a nearly complete recovery. That’s why South Carolina workers’ compensation law offers possible extended medical benefits for serious or more complex work injuries.
For these injuries, you cannot underestimate the importance of your decision about future medical care. It directly impacts two vital components of your life: your health and your ability to earn a living and support yourself and your family. It’s an important reason why seriously hurt workers need experienced workers’ compensation lawyers—to help you make the best choice and get the documents done properly to preserve your rights.
These are your legal options for your future medical treatment related to your work injury in South Carolina:
- Permanent and Total Disability – Lifetime Benefits. If you are hurt so severely you are deemed permanently and totally disabled (which does not mean totally helpless), you qualify for medical treatment related to that injury for the rest of your life. For example, if you are permanently and totally disabled for a back injury, the insurance company must pay your medical care related to your back for the rest of your life.
- Post-MMI Care for Non-Totally Disabling Injuries. In workers’ comp lingo, these are called “Dodge medicals” for the court decision authorizing them. This allows you to get specific medical care, even after you reach MMI, if it helps you reduce disability. For example, if you severely hurt your back but are not totally disabled, you might be able to get Dodge medicals for painkillers you need to get through the day at work and doctor visits for flare ups. These benefits can be for life. But there’s a catch: it requires expert medical evidence stated to a reasonable degree of medical certainty. And here’s the other catch: these benefits aren’t handed out generously; in fact, it’s quite uncommon to receive them. Getting the proper evidence arranged in the proper way to qualify for these benefits requires help from a skilled, experienced workers’ comp lawyer.
- One-Year Option. If you’re unsure whether you’ll need more treatment after the doctor releases you, you might have the option to come back within a year of your last comp check. This is called a Form 16 Settlement, named after the form signed to do it.
These options not only have an impact of your life, but on the value of your workers’ comp settlement. At Holland and Usry, we use our experience, a critical review of your medical records, and meeting with your doctor (if necessary) to be sure which option is best for you.
If you’ve been hurt in a work accident in Spartanburg, Greenville, or nearby, it won’t cost you a thing to discuss all the options you might have for workers’ comp benefits. Feel free to call us at 864.582.0416 or toll free at 888.230.1841. If you’re hurt too bad to come to us, we can come to you. You can also send us an email or start a live chat right from our site.