Sometime those hurt at work in South Carolina are not able to return to work at all for a period of time or in some cases not at all. Those workers compensation injuries result in total wage loss. But what happens when an injured worker can return to work but can only perform his job for a limited number of hours and/or for less wages than he was working for prior to his accident at work? These workers are protected by S.C. Code Annotated §42-9-20 (Amount of compensation for partial disability).
42-9-20 states that when the incapacity for the worker to work results from his accident and injury at work and is partial, the employer will pay him two-thirds of the difference between his average weekly wage that he was earning prior to the accident and the weekly wages that he earns each week after he is disabled. These workers compensation benefits are to be paid to the worker for as long as his partial wage loss continues up to 340 weeks. There are no provisions for payment of additional weekly checks for the injured beyond this maximum number of weeks. It is important to point out however that if the period of partial disability begins after the worker has been out of work based upon being totally disabled for a period of time that the number of weeks paid will not be deducted from the 340 weeks that can be paid for the injured employee’s partial wage loss.
So how does the statute work in practice. A great example would be that of a heavy equipment operator that works 40 hours per week and that is hurt on the job and injures his right arm. His doctor tells puts him on light duty work restrictions and tells the worker he can only use the arm 4 hours per day or 20 hours per week. The construction company/employer realizes that the employee can no longer work a bulldozer so they find him a desk job filing paperwork while he recovers from his work accident. He was earning $25 dollars per hour driving equipment. Now the boss only wants to pay him $10 per hour to file. Accordingly, the worker was earning $1,000 per week ($25 x 40 hours per week). He is no only earning $200 per week ($10 x 20 hours per week). Therefore his is loosing $800 per week in wages. Pursuant to 42-9-20 he is entitled to two-thirds of his wage loss so the insurance company owes him an additional weekly check in the amount of $533.33 to supplement his new post accident weekly wage ($800 wage loss x 2/3).
Partial wage loss is real and happens often in South Carolina workers’ compensation claims. Those injured must do all they can to learn their rights and know the law to protect themselves and their families.