Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Worker's Comp - Part 2

Well, if you have unfortunately found out about worker's comp the hard way - my sympathies. If you are reading this out of curiousity, take mental notes, campers! Today, we are going to talk about the "compensation" end of workers comp.

Disclaimer & Bad Grammar Alert!: Compensation and it's governing laws will vary GREATLY from state to state. Please check in with your workers compensation commission to get the exact details of what you should be getting paid, and what your settlement or suit may consist of!

So, you've been hurt on the job and you'll be wanting a check. Now, ask yourself, prior to getting hurt, did you ever really give a rat's ass about workers compensation? Or were you just ho-hum, great, something else I'll never use...? Me, I was in the rat's ass category. It existed, and that's all I knew. My bubble was burst when Joe was hurt, and did I have a lot to learn. (See Worker's Comp Blog 1 for more info.)

Basic facts:
  • The state you live in will guarantee you some form of worker's compensation payments
  • The state will govern how often and what amount you get paid
  • The state will govern what your settlement may (0r may not) consist of

Here in South Carolina, you are guaranteed 2/3's of your weekly pay up to the state average salary. Catch that last part - state average salary? To misquote Billy Shakespeare - there's the rub. Given that SC is one of the poorest state's in the nation, the state average salary is miserable. It is a mere $647 a week which totals $2,588 for the month. Now for some folks, that's quite a bit. For someone who makes the monthly total every week, WOW, so NOT covering the bills.

Now Worker's Comp is not taxed - you won't owe state or Federal taxes on it. (As an aside, when/if you settle, you will owe Social Security taxes on your settlement, but that's a tale for another day.) But that's all you get. And in South Carolina, the worker's compensation insurance company is allowed to average your salary over the last 18 months. Zowee, Batman! Talk about a further reduction!

So your workers comp check will come in specified intervals from the workers compensation insurance company. And the moon is made of green cheese which is harvested by little men from Mars. Do not count on your check being on time, particularly around the holidays, major economic events, or any time you really need it. Our lawyer advised us NOT to have it direct deposited - that has an even worse track record for timeliness. Supposedly, your lawyer (if you have retained one) could go after the WC insurance company for late payments, but it's not high on their priority list.

Now the next thing to understand is that there is a time limit to your workers compensation claim. In South Carolina, you are allowed to collect/be on workers comp for 500 weeks, or almost 10 years. That seems long, but for a major life-changing injury, it may not be enough.

I know, a lot to digest, so I am going to talk about settlement and suits in a different blog. I think I am due for a funny blog in between serious ones, so don't look for the next Workers Comp blog for a couple of days.