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While Governor Mark Sanford and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce continue to lobby for what they claim to be reform of the workers’ compensation system, their plans would only benefit employers and the large insurance companies in our state. Reform is needed to provide more and fairer benefits for injured workers.

Recently Governor Mark Sanford has toured the state of South Carolina contending that workers’ compensation premiums are crippling business development. On the contrary, insurance companies may be choking employers and small businesses but benefits received by workers are meager by comparison to the serious injuries they suffer. Governor Sanford suggests that the right to recover benefits for repetitive injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome should be eliminated. The Christian & Davis law firm takes the position that long ago workers gave up the right to any lawsuits against the employers for unsafe workplaces causing injuries, and instead only receive the limited benefits of workers’ compensation. Therefore, any injury or harm caused as a result of the workplace should be compensable and covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act. There is no reasonable rationale for eliminating repetitive injuries caused to employees by their work.

Governor Sanford further contends that workers are getting rich off of the workers’ compensation system. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is impossible for an injured worker to become rich off of our workers’ compensation system.

Benefits for a worker who is permanently and totally disabled from any gainful employment are limited to 500 weeks times their compensation rate, with one week of compensation equaling two-thirds of the employee’s previous salary. Therefore, in essence, a person who is disabled for a lifetime is capped at approximately 9-1/2 years of a percent of their earnings. In addition to that, he or she receives nothing for pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of his or her life. Workers’ Compensation simply provides a partial replacement of his or her wage earning capacity. In addition, there is no provision in South Carolina law for escalation of benefits based upon cost-of-living increases.

While injured workers in South Carolina have to turn to public benefits to supplement their workers’ compensation, insurance companies continue to make huge profits. The businesses of South Carolina and our politicians such as Governor Sanford should be outraged with the insurance companies and not spending their time and energy to reduce the minimal compensation injured and disabled workers receive.

Governor Sanford has also requested that arbitrary caps be placed on attorneys’ fees. He has suggested caps or limits so low that it would eliminate lawyers from practically being able to represent injured workers. His real goal is to eliminate legal representation for injured workers while continuing to allow the insurance carrier and/or the employer to have legal representation, under the guise of restricting attorneys’ fees to protect the injured worker. In reality, these politicians and lobbyists desire to make it an unlevel playing field with all of the benefit flowing to the insurance companies.

Christian & Davis represents people with serious personal injuries, work-related injuries, and victims of medical and nursing home negligence and abuse. We encourage you to be politically active and to contact your representative to express the desire that injured workers receive fair protection. The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission presently fairly and adequately handles the judicial and administrative affairs for the workers’ compensation claims in South Carolina and should not be further hampered by unnecessary restrictions and limitations on their ability to make decisions concerning the welfare of injured workers.

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