How to get maximum workers’ compensation benefits if you get injured at work
Workplace injuries happen in every industry, and restaurants are full of potential hazards that can cause injuries to workers. Fortunately, South Carolina employees who are injured at work can file a workers’ compensation claim to receive benefits.
Common fast-food worker injuries
The following accidents and injuries are common among fast-food workers:
- Slip, trip and fall injuries. Fast-food restaurants have hard flooring that can create slip-and-fall hazards. Spilled liquids, dropped foods and freshly-mopped floors can cause workers to slip, trip and fall. These accidents may cause back injuries, strains, sprains and broken bones.
- Burn injuries. Hot oils, freshly-cooked food, pans, stoves, ovens and heated cooking utensils create a risk of burn injuries.
- Overexertion injuries. Workers are often required to lift boxes of supplies and stand on hard flooring in high temperatures. This harsh kitchen environment and strenuous working conditions can lead to overexertion.
- Repetitive motion injuries. Cashiers, cooks and employees who stock supply areas may develop overuse injuries due to the physically repetitive nature of working certain fast-food jobs.
- Food poisoning. Fast-food workers may also contract food poisoning or other illnesses if they come in contact with contaminated food.
- Violence. Like other occupations that require contact with the public, fast-food industry workers are also at risk of becoming involved in violent encounters with angry or otherwise unstable people who enter the restaurant.
Mental health issues on the job: Are anxiety, PTSD, psychological injuries and mental health issues covered by workers’ compensation?
Injury statistics in South Carolina fast-food restaurants
In 2021, more than 10,000 fast-food restaurants, coffee chains and casual restaurants operated locations in South Carolina. Nationwide, approximately 12 million people work in the food service industry.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2017, food services and drinking establishments reported 77.9 occupational injuries and illnesses for every 10,000 full-time employees.
The most common injuries reported in 2017 were strains, sprains and tears. Cuts, lacerations and punctures were also common among employees in the food industry that year.
Workplace violence in the news:
Police called after fight erupts between McDonald’s employees and customers
Earlier this year, a group of juveniles reportedly assaulted an employee at a McDonald’s in Utah. One of the customers told the police that an employee had thrown an object at the customer’s grandmother prior to the altercation. The 4 customers then reportedly went behind the counter and attacked the fast food chain’s employees. Police continue to investigate the origins of the fight. Although one employee was knocked unconscious, no one was hospitalized.
South Carolina workers’ compensation
In South Carolina, most employers with 4 or more employees are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance that provides benefits to employees if they’re injured at work.
Workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance, meaning that a worker doesn’t have to prove that their employer caused their injury to be compensated. Workers only need to prove that their injury or illness occurred during the course and scope of their job.
What benefits can injured fast-food workers receive?
South Carolina workers’ compensation provides workers with the following benefits after a work injury or illness:
- Medical expense reimbursement, including doctor visits, hospital stays, medications, surgeries, rehabilitation and medical devices.
- A portion of lost wages, which is typically two-thirds of your average weekly wage for a period of time that depends on the severity of your injury.
- Death benefits for dependents if a worker dies as a result of their injury.
What should fast-food employees do after a work accident?
If you’re injured while working in a restaurant, follow these steps to ensure you receive compensation:
- Seek medical attention. It’s important to seek medical care as soon as possible after an accident to prevent the injury from getting worse and so a doctor can document the injury. This documentation will make it easier to tie your injury to your work accident.
- Notify your employer. Workers who are injured in an accident on the job should immediately notify their employer about the accident. You’re required by South Carolina workers’ comp law to notify your employer within 90 days of the accident. Failure to do so will likely prevent you from receiving compensation.
- Verify that your employer files a claim. Next, the employer will file a claim with its insurance company to initiate the workers’ compensation process.
- Contact a lawyer if your claim is denied.
Did you know?
Workers who are injured on the job in South Carolina may be entitled to collect compensation for:
- Weekly temporary total (lost wages)
- Medical care
- Permanent disability benefits
Challenges workers may face when requesting workers’ comp
Employees are required to file a workers’ comp claim within 90 days of the date the accident that caused the injury took place. If the employee files the claim after 90 days, the employer may argue that the employee was not seriously injured.
An exception to this rule generally exists in cases in which the employee’s injury developed over time and was unknown to the employee within 90 days of the accident or exposure that caused the injury or illness.
Sometimes an employer may refuse to report the injury to the insurance company. In these cases, the worker may report the injury directly by filing Form 50.
If the injured worker disagrees with the outcome of a workers’ comp claim or with the amount he or she has been awarded in benefits, the worker may file an appeal.
On less common occasions, an employer may not actually have workers’ comp insurance despite misrepresenting the company as having coverage to give the appearance that the company is in compliance with the law.
A South Carolina workers’ comp attorney can advise workers of other legal options if their employer does not have workers’ comp insurance.
How to Appeal a Denial of Workers’ Comp Benefits
in South Carolina
If you were denied benefits and believe that the decision was in error, you can request a hearing before the SCWCC. Form 50, a special form that must be submitted to appeal the decision, should be completed before the hearing. Hearings are held before 1 of 7 commissioners and are much like a civil trial, but somewhat less formal. Both sides can introduce evidence which the commissioner will consider in rendering their decision.
The decision of the commissioner can be appealed to a panel of 3 commissioners on an appellate panel. The decision of the appellate panel can be appealed further to the South Carolina Court of Appeals and even the Supreme Court of South Carolina.
At any time in the appeals process, the parties can agree to participate in mediation, which is a less formal and often less costly method of resolving legal disputes. Most mediation takes place prior to a formal trial before the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Contact a South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney
Although the workers’ comp process is designed to be fairly straightforward, you should always contact a South Carolina personal injury lawyer after a work injury to ensure your rights are protected. Workers’ comp lawyers understand the process in great detail, and they are able to see red flags the average worker might otherwise miss.
An attorney can also identify opportunities you may have to file a third-party claim in court and receive additional compensation. Personal injury lawyers and workers’ comp lawyers generally offer free case evaluations, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
If you’ve been injured on the job in South Carolina, contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Chappell, Smith & Arden, P.A. Our attorneys have recovered millions of dollars for injured workers across the state of South Carolina, and we’d love the opportunity to help you, too.
Contact us today for a free consultation.