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Case Summary: Hutson v. S.C. State Ports Authority

| Oct 6, 2010

As a Columbia personal injury lawyer , I would like to share with you the case summary of Hutson v. S.C. State Ports Authority

Workers' Compensation: Two ways to recover for disability

Under the Workers' Compensation Act in South Carolina, there are two forms of recovery for permanent disability resulting from a work-related the injury. A Claimant may recover for a specific disability claim or a general disability claim.  To recover for general disability, the injured worker must show a loss in earning capacity as a result of the injury. Alternatively, an injured worker may recover for a specific disability resulting from the loss or loss of use of a specific body part, whereby disability is presumed, and no actual loss of earnings need be proven.

In a recent case, the South Carolina Court of Appeals held there was substantial evidence to support the Full Commission's finding the injured worker failed to prove a loss in earning capacity when by his own testimony he had plans and the ability to open a restaurant and earn at least as much as he was earning prior to his injury, even though he had yet to implement his plans and had otherwise to that point had only made unsuccessful applications for work at a grocery store, a plumbing company, and a landscaping business.

Hutson v. S.C. State Ports Authority, No. 4737 (S.C. Ct. App. September 8, 2010). There was evidence submitted establishing loss of earnings, including a vocational expert opinion the injured worker was disabled.  The Commission in fact indicated that but for the injured worker's own testimony regarding his future plans, it would have found he proved he was generally disabled. Because of his own testimony, however, the court affirmed the lower court's denial of recovery based on loss of earning capacity. However, the injured worker did suffer from a permanent loss of use to both his back and leg, and court held that the injured worker was entitled to a specific disability award for both of those body parts and remanded the case back to the Commission for additional findings.

The lesson: As a South Carolina work injury lawyer I stress the importance of examining the two forms of recovery for a permanent disability claim resulting from a work-related injury, and ensure you have evidence of loss of earnings if you are claiming general disability.  It is also important not to overstate your potential earnings to the Commission, and rely on actual earnings and expert reports and opinions.  In this case, a Claimant's future plans and goals were accepted as concrete proof of his ability to earn high wages, when his actual ability to earn wages to date was significantly less.

Categories: Workers Compensation
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