The South Carolina Supreme Court issued a workers’ compensation case ruling that it conceded was as “rare as the proverbial hens’ teeth.” It had to do with an immediate appeal of an interlocutory administrative decision. Normally, in these cases, such matters must reach a final conclusion before either side can appeal them. However in this case, which justices described as a set of “extraordinary circumstances,” the court ruled that requiring the plaintiff to wait for a final agency decision wouldn’t provide him with an adequate remedy. To explain why, we start by explaining there was never a dispute in Hilton v. Flakeboard America Limited as to the compensability of the plaintiff’s work-related injury. Both sides agreed the plaintiff sustained a compensable injury as a result of an insect or spider bite while working at a sustainable forest product manufacturer. The issue was whether the plaintiff required additional medical treatment to reach maximum medical improvement.
Maximum medical improvement is one of the thorniest issues in workers’ compensation claims. It’s the point at which the worker’s injuries have stabilized, and any further functional improvement is not likely, even with continued physical therapy or medical treatment. In other words, that’s as good as it’s going to get. From this point, the employer is going to seek a determination of the degree of permanent or partial impairment, which will set the stage for all future workers’ compensation benefits. It will define which long-term benefits the employee can expect.