Unpacking Workers' Compensation

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Attorney Irving Steinberg was already fighting to protect the rights of Charleston-area employees when the workers’ compensation program was established nearly 100 years ago. His law firm, which opened its doors in 1927, is still determined to make certain its clients receive fair treatment when they are injured on the job.

Navigating through a system that is sometimes skewed against workers hasn’t been easy. Still, the Steinberg Law Firm has continued the work of its founder for nearly a century, helping employees ranging from factory workers in the 1930s to present-day health care employees who are risking their health and well-being to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Steinberg recognized the need to help injured workers no matter their background,” said David Pearlman, a partner in the firm. “We take great pride in representing working people. The success of business and industry is based on the sweat and toil of workers. They should be protected when they are injured.”

Pearlman explained that the legislation creating the workers’ compensation program was designed to balance the interest of employers and injured employees and eliminate the need for cases to be heard in court. Workers give up the right to a jury trial in exchange for benefits such as medical care and a weekly paycheck. However, that check is only two-thirds of the worker’s salary.

“Bills, rent and home payments are not reduced by two-thirds. They have to be paid in full So, an injured worker faces financial strain in addition to their injuries,” Pearlman pointed out. “And, it must be remembered that workers don’t get paid for pain and suffering, loss on enjoyment of life, which are allowed in auto accident cases or other personal injury cases. Also, there are no punitive damages even if the employer places the worker in a known dangerous job.” Pearlman added. “If an injured worker is totally disabled, benefits are limited to 500 weeks – a little longer than 9 ½ years of compensation benefits. The same is true if an employee is killed on the job. His or her family will receive only 500 weeks. Lifetime benefits are paid when the injury involves paralysis or severe brain damage.

The Steinberg Law Firm always has been at the forefront of workers’ comp innovation. The firm has handled many progressive cases. The firm represented a worker in one of the first cases where vocational experts testified concerning a person’s inability to return to work, and more than 400 workers who were poisoned by exposure to lead in a battery manufacturing plant. Its attorneys also represented individuals exposed to diseases such as hepatitis and those who contracted cancers because of the chemicals used in the workplace.

Now, we’re trying to help health care workers who have contracted COVID-19. Some of these cases are being denied by workers’ compensation insurance carriers which I think is immoral,” Pearlman said. “Healthcare workers have sacrificed their health to save all of us.”

Workers’ Comp law differs by state and is required in South Carolina for employers with at least four employees.

“Some insurance companies are proactive and handle cases correctly, but many deny cases when benefits should be paid,” he commented. “Then people have no alternative than to hire an attorney.”

He pointed out that the majority of workers’ comp cases are handled without legal help, but he added that complex cases – usually those involving serious injuries – will likely require an attorney to represent a worker in front of the seven-member Workers’ Compensation Commission. If that is the situation, the Steinberg Law Firm will be there to help.

“Our goal is to try to make sure our clients receive the best of the system. No one deserves less.” Pearlman concluded.

Do you think you might need an attorney to represent you in a workers’ compensation case? Contact the Steinberg Law Firm, which has offices in Charleston, Summerville, and Goose Creek, at (843) 376-5896. For more information, visit www.steinberglawfirm.com .