Informal Conferences During Workers’ Compensation – What You Need to Know
When an employee is injured on-the-job in South Carolina, they have the right to seek compensation for their injury regardless of fault through workers’ compensation insurance. This type of insurance pays for a worker’s medical bills, and even lost wages, when the employee has to miss work. As part of this process, an injured worker with a serious disability, will need to attend an “informal conference” if they are not represented by an attorney. If one is scheduled, then you hire an attorney, your attorney will attend it with you or will cancel it if they do not feel the compensation is for an appropriate amount…and most of the time it is not for an appropriate amount once all of the facts are brought to surface.
Here is a look into what you need to know:
What Is an Informal Conference?
An informal conference is an important part of the workers’ compensation process for those who have suffered a permanent disability or loss of use of bodily function as a result of their workplace accident. An informal conference is a meeting between you (and your attorney) and a representative from your employer’s insurance company and is held with the purpose of settling your claim by coming to an agreement about how much you will be paid in permanent disability pay. Typically, there is one Deputy Commissioner who covers the entire state who hears the settlement proposal to determine if they believe it is appropriate.
What to Expect During an Informal Conference
As mentioned above, an informal conference is held in order to come to an agreement about how much you will be paid. In order to make this determination, the Deputy Commissioner is supposed to review all of your medical records. You will also be asked specific questions about your disability or impairment, such as how it has limited your ability to perform certain physical (or, in some cases, cognitive) activities.
After the extent of your disability has been assessed, you will be offered a settlement amount. Your settlement amount is based on 66 2/3 percent of your weekly wage multiplied by a percentage “disability” (not to be confused with “impairment”) body part(s) affected by the accident. You will be asked if you accept the settlement amount; if you do, you will be asked to sign the settlement offer.
Do I Have to Accept a Settlement Offer Made During an Informal Conference?
Once you agree to the settlement, sign, and the SC Workers’ Compensation approves it through the Deputy Commissioner, the amount is final and cannot be amended. Because of this, it is very important that you understand exactly how much you are getting and whether or not that amount fully compensates you for your losses.
You do not have to agree to a settlement offer. If you do not agree, the next step in the workers’ compensation process is a formal hearing before a workers’ compensation commissioner. Typically, the hearing is held about three to four months after a hearing is requested. During the hearing you will have the opportunity to present all facts related to your case and let the hearing commissioner make his / her own decision. Of course, prior to the hearing, a skilled attorney may be able to negotiate a favorable settlement so that a hearing can be avoided.
Why You Should Contact a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney
While you are not required to have an attorney represent you during neither the informal conference nor the formal hearing, working with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer who understands South Carolina law, and your rights as an injured employee, is in your best interest. An attorney can help you understand whether a settlement offer fully addresses your losses, and if not, what you can do to prove that you deserve more and how to navigate through the workers’ compensation claims process.
If you have been injured on the job, contact the talented South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney at The Chad Pye Law Firm, (864) 583-5658 today to schedule your free case consultation and learn how we can assist you.