If you applied for and were denied workers compensation benefits in South Carolina, or if you were granted benefits but you disagree with some part of the decision awarding you benefits, you have the right to file an appeal with the South Carolina Workers Compensation Commission (the Commission). You aren't required to hire an attorney to represent you during the appeal, but if you do, you may have a better chance of a positive outcome or a higher settlement. (Learn more about eligibility for workers' comp in South Carolina.)
The Workers' Compensation Commission is a state agency that is responsible for overseeing workers' compensation claims in South Carolina and holding hearings when employees or employers contest a workers' compensation decision. There are seven commissioners who serve on the Commission. In addition to presiding over hearings and issuing decisions, the Commission also handles informal conferences, approves settlement agreements, and takes care of other related matters.
The Commission can be reached by phone at 803-737-5675 or by fax at 803-737-1281. The Judicial Department of the Commission handles appeals, and its mailing address is:
South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission
1333 Main Street, Suite 500
P.O. Box 1715
Columbia, SC 29202
To file an appeal, you must submit a hearing request to the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission along with the filing fee of $25. Use the contact information for the Judicial Department, above, to submit your hearing request.
Your appeal will be heard before one Commissioner. After you have submitted your request for a hearing, the Commission will schedule the hearing. Although the Commission is located in Columbia, hearings are held through the state. Your hearing will typically be held in the county where your work-related injury occurred.
In some cases, you will be required to see a doctor selected by the Commission. The doctor will examine you and then testify at the hearing about your medical condition. You will also have the opportunity to testify.
After the hearing, the Commission will issue a decision, called an "order." If you disagree with the order, you have the right to appeal it.
At the first level of appeal, only one Commissioner heard your case. At Commission Review, a panel of three Commissioners presides over your hearing. The decision issued by the Commission Review is called an "Award." An award notification will be sent to you along with legal rulings and "findings of fact" about your case (the Commission statement about what the Commissioners believe to be the facts of your case).
To file your second appeal, you will be required to submit a Request for Commission Review. You must submit this request within 14 days after you receive the Commissioner's decision (order) in the mail. Your request must be accompanied by a filing fee of $150. Use the contact information for the Judicial Department, above, to submit your request for Commission Review.
If you cannot afford the filing fee, you can complete and submit a Request to Waive Appeal Filing Fee. On this form, you will be asked to provide information about whether you are employed, whether your spouse is employed, what your total household income is, and information about support you may be providing to any dependents you have.
If, after hearing your case, the Commission finds that your case was "without merit," you could be charged an additional fee of up to $250. "Without merit" means you had no grounds at all for your disagreement with the Commissioner's decision at the first hearing, and there was no reasonable basis upon which the Commission could alter the previous order. This would be an extreme situation, such as the making of a fraudulent claim saying you were injured at work when you were actually injured while at home. Most appeals will have some reasonable basis and so will have "merit" and not likely risk the additional fee.
To appeal an award by the Commission Review, you must file a lawsuit with the South Carolina Court of Appeals. You have 30 dates from the date of the award or from the date that your registered mail "receipt of notice" was sent back to the Commission, whichever is longer.
When you file a case with the Court of Appeals, you have to state the reason for the appeal. You must explain why you believe the decision is incorrect either in terms of the facts of your case or the Commission's interpretation of the law. You can learn more about how to file an appeal by reading the South Carolina Court of Appeals FAQs, though you should consider consulting with an attorney.
Your employer will still have to pay you weekly cash benefits and cover your medical care while the appeal is pending.
If you lose your appeal before the South Carolina Court of Appeals, you have the right to appeal to the South Carolina Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court does not hear all appeals that are filed; the Court has discretion to choose which cases it will hear.