South Carolina Workers’ Comp for Chronic Pain Syndrome
Learn how to prove your chronic pain is work-related so you can get maximum workers’ compensation benefits
Pain is the body’s natural, healthy response to injury or illness and is likely to continue until your body is able to heal itself. But if your pain persists beyond the expected healing time and is accompanied by other symptoms like depression or anxiety, you may have a condition known as “chronic pain syndrome.”
Chronic pain syndrome is characterized by discomfort that continues for 3 to 6 months after the underlying injury has resolved. Not only does chronic pain syndrome cause continued discomfort, but the condition can also have a very real impact on an individual’s emotional and physical health.
If you experience chronic pain that stems from a work-related injury, you may be entitled to South Carolina workers’ compensation benefits.
Statistics on chronic pain
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 20.4% of adults (or 1 in 5) experienced chronic pain in 2019. Of these adults, 7.4% reported that the pain frequently limited their daily living or work activities.
Types of chronic pain
Doctors are currently unable to pinpoint the exact cause of chronic pain syndrome. It often develops after an individual has undergone surgery or has experienced an injury, disease or other health condition that’s accompanied by pain, such as:
- Bone fractures
- Nerve damage
- Gastrointestinal conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Available treatment options for chronic pain syndrome
Doctors typically customize treatment for chronic pain syndrome according to each individual patient’s symptoms and specific health needs.
Some doctors refer their chronic pain patients to physical or occupational therapists, whose treatments may include any combination of hot and cold therapy, massage, stretching and transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS).
Other approaches to treating chronic pain include the following:
- Over-the-counter pain medications
- Muscle relaxers
- Nerve blocks
- Spinal cord stimulation
Doctors may treat the psychological effects of chronic pain syndrome by referring patients to mental health counseling, encouraging patients to practice holistic relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing exercises, and prescribing antidepressants if necessary.
Occupations that lead to chronic pain syndrome
Certain jobs place additional stress on a worker’s body and are more likely to cause injuries that can lead to chronic pain.
Although most people don’t think of office workers or truck drivers when they think of workplace injuries, the sedentary nature of these jobs can place constant strain on several parts of the body. Sitting for long periods can strain the muscles in the neck, back, arms and legs.
Other more active occupations also increase the risk of workers developing chronic pain due to the elevated risk of physical injury. Some workers at an increased risk of injuries that can lead to chronic pain syndrome include the following:
Can I get workers’ comp benefits for chronic pain in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, most employers with 4 or more employees are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance for their workers. This insurance provides benefits for occupational diseases and injuries (including chronic pain syndrome) that occur within the “course and scope” of your job, which means they must be a direct result of your work environment or work duties.
Because workers’ comp is no-fault insurance, you don’t have to prove anyone was at fault for your injury or illness to get compensation. In fact, in most cases, you can get workers’ comp benefits even if you were partially responsible for the accident that caused your injury.
To qualify for these benefits, you must be classified as an employee, which means that independent contractors are not eligible for workers’ compensation. A South Carolina work injury attorney can help determine if you qualify for benefits and assist you in filing a claim.
Proving chronic pain is work-related
The first thing you’ll need to prove your chronic pain is work-related is an official diagnosis. Doctors often classify work-related chronic pain into 1 of 2 categories: chronic pain syndrome and complex regional pain syndrome.
- Chronic pain syndrome continues for more than 1 month and interferes with the individual’s daily activities.
- Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a debilitating pain that occurs when the nerves misfire and send continuous pain signals to the brain. CRPS generally occurs after a traumatic injury to one of the upper or lower extremities.
Classifying chronic pain allows the patient to receive the most appropriate type of compensation.
Unfortunately, workers who experience chronic pain may be accused of exaggerating the extent of their injuries. These claims may come from the employer, the employer’s approved physician or the employer’s workers’ comp insurance company.
Injured workers who experience chronic pain should push back against skepticism by requesting further examination. The following tests may provide additional evidence to support a workers’ compensation claim for chronic pain:
- Blood tests
- Electrodiagnostic testing to measure the activity of the nerves and pain receptors
Filing a workers’ comp claim in South Carolina
After you receive a medical diagnosis of chronic pain syndrome, you need to take some additional steps to secure compensation.
Workers are required to report work-related injuries to their employer within 90 days of the accident taking place. Conditions like chronic pain may require more time for the worker to discover something is wrong. In these cases, the worker should report the condition within 90 days of discovering the injury.
After you report your injury, your employer is required to file a claim with their insurer and notify the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. If they refuse to do so, you can file a claim yourself by submitting Form 50.
While workers aren’t required to have an attorney during this process, it’s highly recommended that you consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney early on in the process, as even small mistakes can impact the success of your claim.
What workers’ comp benefits am I entitled to in South Carolina?
Workers’ compensation benefits cover all of the injured worker’s related medical expenses, including doctor’s appointments, surgeries, rehabilitation and medications.
It also provides supplemental payments to cover two-thirds of the worker’s lost income if the injury causes the employee to take time off from work while they heal from their injuries.
Additionally, if a work-related injury or illness leads to a worker’s death, their dependents are eligible for death benefits that cover a portion of funeral expenses and lost income.
Contact a Columbia workers’ compensation lawyer
Workers’ compensation claims for chronic pain syndrome can be complicated, as workers often have difficulty providing evidence of work-related chronic pain. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney will advocate on your behalf to ensure you receive the necessary diagnostic exams needed to prove your pain is work-related so you can get the compensation you deserve.
If you were hurt on the job and are suffering from chronic pain that’s impacting your ability to work and enjoy your life, contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Smith, Born, Leventis, Taylor & Vega. We offer free, no-obligation consultations to give you the help and information you need to get back on the road to recovery.
Contact us today to see how we can help you get maximum compensation for your claim.