Isack v. Acuity: Workers’ Compensation and Reimbursement Rights

Our Spartanburg workers’ compensation attorneys know that complex litigation can result when a person files a lawsuit after already receiving a workers’ compensation award.

480202_broken_car.jpgIn Isack v. Acuity, a case in the South Carolina Supreme Court, a worker was injured in a serious automobile accident. A co-worker was driving the van during the course of employment. The accident was reportedly caused by the negligence of a third party who was also driving in the course of his employment.

After the accident, the claimant’s employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company paid benefits to the injured workers. A couple of weeks later, a family member of the claimant contacted a car accident lawyer seeking representation for the accident. The attorney contacted the workers’ compensation insurance company to speak with them about their right to offset any benefits paid, and then entered into an engagement agreement with the claimant.

The claimant’s co-worker also retained the services of an attorney and filed a lawsuit against the defendant. Once both cases were filed, the plaintiff’s agreed to consolidate their cases, so they were not fighting amongst themselves for the insurance money.

The worker’s compensation insurance company moved to intervene into the lawsuit. When a person or company moves to intervene into an ongoing lawsuit, they are telling the court that, while they are not currently a party to the case, they should be because they will be affected by the outcome of the case.

In Isack, the court granted the workers’ compensation carrier’s motion to intervene and made them a party to the lawsuit. The case was eventually tried before a judge and, after the verdict, the judge essentially ordered that the workers’ compensation company contribute to the cost of the plaintiff’s legal representation by reducing their reimbursement by one-third.

In other words, if the plaintiff was awarded $100,000 and had already been paid $10,000 in workers compensation, the insurance company would be able to recover its $10,000 from the plaintiff’s $100,000. However, instead of giving the insurance all $10,000, the judge gives the insurance $7,000 and makes them contribute the $3,000 towards the cost of the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees. The insurance company is objecting to this because they want the entire amount of money and feel that the attorney should be paid from the plaintiff’s share. It is their goal to charge your employer a premium each month and not have to spend a lot of money paying claims.

In Isack, the court denied the insurance company’s request and required them to pay, rather than the plaintiff bearing all the costs. The issue before the South Carolina Supreme Court was whether or not the insurance company had its own lawyer working actively on the case, or if they relied on the plaintiff’s attorney to handle the trial. In this case, there was no evidence that the insurance company had their own attorney to do much of anything in this case.

It is important to keep in mind that the workers’ compensation companies care more about their bottom line than your wellbeing or the wellbeing of your lawyer.

If you have been injured at work in Spartanburg, South Carolina, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Isack v. Acuity, July 2, 2014, South Dakota Supreme Court

More Blog Entries

Fighting for South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Coverage, February 27, 2014, South Carolina Workers’ Compensation

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