Applying for workers’ compensation benefits can be essential to get workers and their families the financial help they need to pick up the pieces of their lives and recover after a workplace accident, injury or illness. Most workers who are injured on the job in South Carolina are eligible for workers’ compensation, which is an important financial lifeline for workers who may be facing costly medical bills and lost wages following a workplace injury.
As experienced workers’ compensation lawyers in Columbia, SC, Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. understands the nuances of the workers’ compensation system and are skilled at efficiently guiding our clients through it. Our attorneys help injured workers get the maximum benefits to which they are entitled, and we have a record of success when it comes to new benefit claims and appeals following wrongful denials or terminations of benefits.
Let our team put our experience and skills to work, helping you obtain workers’ compensation benefits following any work-related injury, accident or illness.
Our Clients Love Us
“Chappell Smith & Arden made my case absolutely painless. They were professional, diligent, compassionate and extremely attentive. Mark Chappell and his team went above and way beyond to make sure I was compensated for someone else’s wrongdoing.”
“They are absolutely AMAZING! It’s very rare to not only ﬁnd great customer service, but genuine people who care about their clients. They truly go above and beyond to help, even after they’ve helped with your claim.”
“Chappell Smith & Arden were our attorneys for our car accident case. They were very reassuring and patient with us during a long and stressful negotiation with the drivers Insurance company and were highly successful in arranging a deserved ﬁnancial settlement. We recommend Chappell Smith & Arden for whatever legal representation is needed.”
“Chappell Smith represented me in a workers comp case they did a wonderful job. Kind courteous and they actually care about their clients. They understand the stress these cases bring, especially for someone like me that suffers from PTSD. They actually take time and listen and are genuine when they ask if they can help you.”
“One of the “BEST” Law Firms. They treat you like family. They are always available when you need them. They work hard to get what you need and deserve. If you are looking for excellent representation, look no further. Chappell, Smith and Arden are here for YOU!”
Workers’ Comp 101: What You Should Know in South Carolina
Most employers in South Carolina are legally required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. South Carolina’s workers’ compensation system provides financial assistance to injured workers, as well as families who have lost loved ones to fatal work accidents. This system is designed to be fair to both injured employees and their employers.
Benefits for workers
When a worker suffers an injury in the workplace or while performing their job-related tasks, employers are required to pay out benefits to cover medical costs and a portion of lost wages. These benefits are “no fault,” which means workers don’t have to prove that the employer was negligent or at fault to receive these benefits (and vice versa).
In fact, even if the injured worker was partially or fully responsible for their own injury, they are generally entitled to workers’ compensation benefits so long as the injury or illness occurred in the scope and course of employment.
Benefits for employers
Workers’ compensation is an “exclusive remedy” in South Carolina. This means that employees cannot pursue legal action against their employer or coworkers outside of obtaining workers’ compensation.
In other words, injured workers cannot sue employers to receive the full amount of their lost wages or recover compensation for damages such as pain and suffering.
Death benefits for the families of employees who suffer fatal injuries are also severely limited under this system.
Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, not so much…
Workers’ compensation is a complex system that can be difficult to navigate. Making critical mistakes along the way, such as missing important deadlines, can cause people to lose out on the benefits they need and deserve.
Here’s an overview of important facts to know about filing a workers’ compensation claim in South Carolina:
- Reporting workplace injuries. Individual employers may have specific requirements for how soon workplace injuries must be reported, with some reporting deadlines as short as 24 hours after the accident or incident occurred. Per South Carolina law, however, injured workers have up to 90 days from the date of their accident or from the date on which their injury/illness was discovered to report it to their employer.
- Filing claims. Filing a workers’ compensation claim in South Carolina starts with reporting your injury or illness to your employer and requesting that they complete an incident report. Once this occurs, your employer should generally file a workers’ compensation claim on your behalf with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC). If your employer refuses to file your claim (because, for instance, the employer is disputing the injury), you can file your own claim with the SCWCC.
- Seeing a doctor. When receiving medical treatment for workplace injuries, you’re required to see a doctor selected by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance provider if you want your treatments to be covered by the provider. If you choose to see your own doctor (instead of one chosen by the insurer), you will typically have to pay for these medical bills out of your own pocket.
- Getting treatments. The medical treatments covered by workers’ compensation can include any prescribed treatments necessary for your recovery. This can include (but may not be limited to) hospitalization, surgeries, medication, physical therapy, medical devices and at-home aides.
- Benefit amounts. Injured workers who are approved for workers’ compensation benefits are entitled to weekly benefits equal to two-thirds of their average weekly earnings up to a set maximum amount that is adjusted each year by the South Carolina Employment Security Commission to account for inflation.
- When doctors, insurers and/or the SCWCC make mistakes. Unfortunately, doctors, insurance companies and the SCWCC don’t always make the right calls in regards to injured workers’ claims. For instance, sometimes they may issue the wrong diagnosis, wrongly deny a claim or issue the incorrect benefit amount. When this occurs, contacting one of our lawyers will be essential to overcoming these challenges and obtaining the benefits you deserve.
- Third-party liability claims. If you were injured on the job but your injury was caused by the recklessness or negligence of someone other than your employer, you may be eligible to pursue compensation via a third-party liability claim. This means that in addition to the no-fault workers’ compensation benefits you are eligible for, you can also pursue a claim to recover compensation for your suffering. You must file a third-party liability claim in a timely manner as required by state law, and you must maintain thorough documentation of the injury and any medical treatments.
What To Do After a Work-Related Injury in South Carolina (4 Steps)
If you’re injured on the job in South Carolina, you may be entitled to lost wages, medical expenses, vocational training and more. To access these benefits, there are certain steps that both employers and employees should take immediately following a work-related accident.
Step 1: Report the injury
If you’re injured or realize that your health problems or long-term pain stem from your employment, the first thing you should do is notify your employer of your injury in writing. Employers should have a plan in place for when accidents happen so they know what to do. For instance, following an accident, the area should be immediately secured so that others are not injured.
Step 2: Seek medical care
Employers should have a first aid kit on-hand to administer first aid after an accident. Class A first aid kits are kits designed to handle common but minor workplace injuries like minor cuts and abrasions. Depending on your occupation, you may require a Class B first aid kit. These are designed to handle injuries in high-risk environments, such as exposure to hazardous chemicals or burns.
Class A and Class B first aid kits will also have a Type number:
- Type I kits are indoor, wall-mounted kits.
- Type II kits are indoor, but portable in a box of some type.
- Type III kits (also known as “mixed-use” kits) tend to be water-resistant, and they can be either portable, mountable, or both.
- Type IV kits are extremely durable, portable outdoor units made to withstand the elements.
In addition, it’s important to seek medical treatment immediately following an accident. Your employer may have a manager accompany you if needed. After receiving medical treatment, it’s important to stay on top of any and all follow-up appointments and to heed the advice given by your doctor.
Step 3: File a workers’ compensation claim
Once you’ve notified your employer and sought medical treatment, request a workers’ compensation application form to fill out, and return the completed form to your supervisor or Human Resources (HR) department.
You should be contacted by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company to arrange medical care and start benefits if the doctor keeps you out of work for the requisite time period. If this doesn’t happen quickly, contact your employer to see if there’s a problem, and get their insurance information. (Also, feel free to contact us to see if we can help you.)
Step 4: Consult an attorney
If your injuries are serious or your benefits have been denied, consult an experienced work injury lawyer in South Carolina. We can help ensure you receive the full benefits to which you are entitled.
Start by scheduling your free initial consultation. Then, watch this video to learn what documents, information and evidence to bring with you.
South Carolina Workplace Safety Statistics
The National Safety Council’s (NSC) “State of Safety: A State-by-State Report” reveals that there are over 140,000 preventable fatalities each year in the United States. The NSC recently investigated state actions and policies pertaining to the reduction of risk for residents and produced a comprehensive report containing information gathered over the course of a year (2015).
In this report:
South Carolina was ranked the 5th most unsafe state overall, receiving a grade “F” for workplace safety. The Palmetto State also received an “F” for home and community safety and a “D” for road safety.
No state earned an “A,” and 26 states (including South Carolina) didn’t get a passing grade. “The state of safety in America is perilous,” said NSC President and CEO Deborah Hersman.
Preventable injuries and
deaths at work
Over 40.6 million serious, preventable injuries occur each year, many of which happen in the workplace. In 2020, 2.7 million work injuries and illnesses were reported in private-sector U.S. jobs.
An American worker died every 111 minutes from a work-related injury in 2020, adding up to 4,764 work-related fatalities reported—or an average of 13 people killed per day. In South Carolina, employers reported 29,100 nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses and 108 fatal work injuries in 2019.
According to the NSC, approximately 40,000 people suffered fatal injuries last year in motor vehicle crashes. Some of those people drove as part of their jobs. If workers don’t receive proper training and safety management, they’re at an increased risk of suffering a work injury or being involved in a fatal car accident. The 3 main causes of fatalities on the road are alcohol, speeding and distracted driving. The South Carolina Department of Transportation reported 1,005 traffic fatalities in 2019—around 2-3 roadway deaths per day.
Common Reasons Why Workers’ Comp Claims Are Denied
As soon as you suffer a work-related injury, you should report it to your employer. Next, you should file a claim with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. Your employer may agree to accept your claim, or they may deny it.
If you contest a denial of benefits, the Commission may preside over certain aspects of your case and ultimately hold a hearing to determine whether you should’ve been awarded benefits. Employers and insurance companies don’t always approve claims. The SCWCC is a state agency that determines whether workers who are injured on the job receive the workers’ compensation benefits that they are legally entitled to.
If you were denied benefits, you should have received a denial letter stating the reason for the denial of your claim. The most common reasons why claims are denied include:
- Failure to report the injury. If you are injured on the job, you should immediately report your injury to your supervisor. Failing to make a timely report may result in a denial of your claim. In South Carolina, injured workers have up to 90 days to report a work-related injury. However, in some circumstances, determining when that period began can be complicated. Speak to a qualified lawyer about your concerns to ensure that you don’t forfeit your claim.
- Improper or untimely filing of your claim. Once you’ve reported your injury to your employer, the law also requires that you or your employer file a claim with the SCWCC within a specified period. Your employer must take timely action by informing the state or their insurance carrier, as appropriate.
- Employer or insurance company disputes your claim. Sometimes, an employer will claim that your accident happened outside of work, was the result of horseplay or intentional conduct, or is related to a pre-existing injury and not related to your employment. If your employer has denied benefits, you’ll need to gather evidence to support your claim. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can take statements from witnesses, obtain affidavits, issue subpoenas and conduct depositions, as well as gather medical records from your physician that connect your injury to your workplace.
- The injury is not compensable. In certain states, claims for stress-related injuries (like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for example) are not compensable. In South Carolina, the legislature has considered past bills to allow compensation for work-related PTSD; however, currently, no such law has passed. Employees are required to prove that their stress or mental health injury is extraordinary and the result of abnormal working conditions in order to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
- You did not receive medical treatment. You must receive medical treatment for your injury or work-related health condition to obtain benefits.
How to Appeal a Denial of Benefits in South Carolina
If you were denied benefits and believe that the decision was in error, you can request a hearing before the SCWCC. Form 50, a special form that must be submitted to appeal the decision, should be completed before the hearing. Hearings are held before 1 of 7 commissioners and are much like a civil trial, but somewhat less formal. Both sides can introduce evidence which the commissioner will consider in rendering their decision.
The decision of the commissioner can be appealed to a panel of 3 commissioners on an appellate panel. The decision of the appellate panel can be appealed further to the South Carolina Court of Appeals and even the Supreme Court of South Carolina.
At any time in the appeals process, the parties can agree to participate in mediation, which is a less formal and often less costly method of resolving legal disputes. Most mediation takes place prior to a formal trial before the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Why Hire a Lawyer for Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
Workers’ compensation can be difficult for most workers and their employers to understand. Due to the many complexities and legal nuances involved, unrepresented workers are at risk of receiving an unfair award that is far below what they’re actually entitled to. Working with an experienced lawyer can help injured workers avoid costly mistakes and ensure that they receive the full amount of benefits to which they are entitled.
What our workers’ compensation attorneys can do for you
As a client of Chappell Smith & Arden, we will develop a solid case that incorporates necessary medical evidence and witness testimony to prove the cause and severity of your work injury. We will also make sure that all filing deadlines are met. Claimants who are not represented by counsel often rely on the “independent” doctors who perform medical examinations on behalf of the insurance companies. However, these physicians work for the insurance company and, therefore, have an incentive to downplay or minimize the severity of your injury and associated costs.
In addition to representing your best interests to insurers and medical professionals, we can help arrange for vocational experts to testify about the requirements of your job and get other medical experts to testify about restrictions or tasks that you can no longer perform because of your work injury.
Moreover, you may have a claim outside of the workers’ compensation system against a third party. Potential defendants in these cases include anyone whose negligence contributed to your work accident and resulting injuries (with the exception of your employer or coworkers). Third-party liability claims commonly arise out of work-related car accidents and injuries caused by defective tools or equipment. From day one, our skilled workers’ compensation law firm will identify any potential claims to maximize your financial recovery.
When to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer
You should hire a workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible if any of the following statements are true:
- Your employer denies your claim for benefits. This happens far too often. Worse, many employees are reluctant to appeal the denial of benefits for fear of retaliation. If you’ve been injured on the job, you have rights.
- The settlement offer doesn’t cover all your medical bills and lost wages. Don’t rely on the workers’ compensation judge to ensure you receive a fair settlement. Judges will usually approve any settlement that isn’t blatantly unfair, but that doesn’t mean that settlement is in your best interest.
- You have sustained an injury that requires surgery.
- You are no longer able to return to work on a regular basis in your current job.
- You are no longer able to return to work on a regular basis in any job because you‘ve been severely disabled. You may be entitled to lifetime weekly payments or a single lump sum for permanent partial disability (PPD) or permanent total disability (PTD). Insurance companies often fight these types of claims the hardest because they’re the most costly. It’s essential that you hire an experienced workers’ compensation and disability lawyer in these cases to get the settlement you deserve.
- You have a pre-existing condition or disability.
- You want to make sure you get the best settlement possible and would feel more comfortable knowing that someone is representing your interests.
- You receive Social Security Disability.
- You are fired, demoted or given a reduction in hours or pay because you filed a workers’ compensation claim.
- You suspect that you have a claim against a third party (such as an equipment manufacturer, a motorist or property owner) for your work-related injury.
Holding Negligent Parties Accountable
$150 million Bridge collapse
$56 million Military class action
$14.5 million Insurance bad faith
$5 million Forklift accident
$3.5 million Head-on-collision
$1.3 million Multiple vehicle wreck
This list is not a description or characterization of the quality of the ﬁrm’s representation and is in no way a guarantee of a speciﬁc result for your case. Every case is diﬀerent, and our South Carolina injury lawyers and the court will evaluate each case on its own merit.
Common Types of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses
At the law firm of Chappell Smith & Arden, we’re dedicated to helping injured workers throughout South Carolina. Work injuries can be life altering. Even a seemingly “minor” injury can result in chronic pain. Most work injuries are covered by workers’ compensation, making your employer responsible for medical expenses and lost wages.
Some common work injuries we handle include:
- Amputation/loss of limb. These are among the most serious injuries that can happen at work and impact a worker’s life, leaving both physical and emotional scars.
- Back and neck injuries. Back and neck injuries include herniated discs, whiplash and bulging discs, often resulting from repetitive strain or trauma. These injuries range from mild with minor discomfort to severe with debilitating and chronic pain. Severe back and neck injuries can also leave workers with permanent disabilities.
- Bone fractures and orthopedic injuries. Injuries involving broken bones can happen in a work-related fall or from repeated, forceful stress over prolonged time periods. Depending on the type of fracture and whether there was damage to tendons, ligaments or joints, this type of injury may result in the need for rehabilitation therapy and temporary disability status for the worker.
- Fatal work injuries. Losing a loved one in a fatal workplace accident is overwhelmingly difficult. Death benefits via the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier are available to help families with costs, including burial and funeral expenses.
- Foot and ankle injuries. This category covers a wide range of injuries, such as sprains, strains, crushing injuries, dislocation and pulled muscles. Foot and ankle injuries are common in the workplace. Some are the result of slips, trips and falls, but workers can also suffer foot injuries because their job requires them to be on their feet all day. Other foot injuries occur when workers are not supplied with the proper protective equipment.
- Mental injuries. Stress from unusual or extraordinary conditions of employment can cause emotional and psychological injury. Workers’ compensation claims for mental injuries are often denied by insurers, but if you have medical documentation that work-related stress caused a need for prescription medication or other medical interventions, such as counseling and therapy, then your claim may be successful.
- Scars and disfigurement. Some of the most devastating kinds of workplace accidents are those resulting in permanent scarring and disfigurement. These types of injuries require specialized multi-step medical care and sometimes reconstructive surgery. Workers’ compensation benefits specific to disfigurement are available in some cases.
- Sprains and strains. Sprains and strains are very common work injuries and involve damage to soft tissues, such as tendons, muscles or ligaments. They can happen from a slip-and-fall accident, heavy lifting or repetitive motion over time. Commonly affected areas include the back, neck, shoulder, wrist, knees and ankles. Musculoskeletal injuries can be severe and painful from the start or begin as minor discomfort that develops into an injury requiring significant medical attention.
- Traumatic brain injury. Any injury to the brain is serious, and some can have lasting and life-changing effects. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is among the most serious, nonfatal workplace accidents, which can leave a worker cognitively impaired and unable to perform their job or lead an independent lifestyle. Common causes of TBI include motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls and defective equipment.
Occupational Diseases and Illnesses
Employees in South Carolina who develop an occupational disease are also entitled to workers’ compensation benefits; however, the definition of an occupational disease is very specific. An occupational disease is an illness that a worker suffers as a direct result of the hazardous conditions they’re exposed to on the job that directly causes the disease.
Workers who develop occupational diseases due to their job deserve to be compensated for lost wages and medical expenses. In some cases, where permanent disability results from the occupational illness, additional compensation may be available. Mesothelioma is one of the most common occupational diseases covered by workers’ compensation. Miners, auto mechanics, construction workers and shipbuilders are commonly exposed to asbestos on the job. Toxic asbestos fibers can lay dormant in a person’s lungs for a period of 20-50 years before the worker develops this terminal lung cancer.
Mesothelioma meets the definition of an occupational disease because workers in certain industries develop this type of cancer as a result of their exposure to asbestos in their line of work. Workers’ compensation benefits provide the employee with compensation for lost wages, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, physical therapy, prescription medications and disability payments. This compensation not only helps the patient focus on their recovery but relieves the victim’s family from the financial burdens caused by their loved one’s occupational disease.
Other types of occupational illnesses include those related to exposure to harsh chemicals, such as formaldehyde, benzene and other gasses, mists and vapors, which can cause brain damage, respiratory diseases, lead poisoning and skin diseases.
When you’re diagnosed with an occupational illness in South Carolina, you have 90 days to report this to your employer to ensure you receive benefits. You can file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits up to 2 years after being diagnosed with an occupational disease; however, your benefits are at risk after the 90-day period. Tracking time limits on an occupational disease claim can be tricky, so it’s wise to file your claim with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Third-Party Liability Claims in South Carolina
There are numerous factors that may contribute to a workplace accident or injury. If your injury was caused by someone’s negligence or recklessness—and this person was not your employer—then you may be able to pursue a third-party liability claim to recover additional compensation for your suffering.
There are many circumstances in which a third party can cause a work-related injury. Construction accidents are a common type of case in which third-party liability may exist.
Other examples include:
- Non-employer supervisors. Contractors who are not directly employed by the company but serve in a supervisory role (such as engineers, designers, architects, or other project managers) can be held liable for injuries that occur under their supervision.
- Equipment manufacturers, distributors, or sellers. If the equipment required to do the job is defective in some way, it can cause serious injury.
- Outside vendors. Even in non-supervisory roles, outside contractors who behave negligently on a worksite can cause injuries.
- Public utility providers. Workers who interact with electrical or gas lines may face additional risks if those lines are damaged in any way.
- Drivers. If a worker is injured in a motor vehicle accident while on the job, he or she may be able to sue the driver who caused the accident.
How to win a third-party negligence case
To successfully argue a third-party liability claim, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the third party was in some way responsible for the worker’s safety and failed to fulfill that responsibility.
Furthermore, the damages suffered by the worker must be a direct result of the failure of the third party to be liable. It’s important to maintain detailed documentation of your injury and ensuing medical treatments. Workers must also file claims in a timely manner as required by state law.
In some cases, the victim’s insurer may cover the cost of medical treatment, even if a third party was responsible for the injury. The insurer may then file a third-party claim themselves to be reimbursed for those payouts if the victim doesn’t do so themselves.
While insurance companies may have more resources in pursuing a claim, they also have more control over the proceedings and could place a “lien” on the recovered funds until their losses are recouped. Consulting an experienced lawyer can help determine what course of action is right for your case.
Workers’ Compensation Frequently Asked Questions
What workers’ comp benefits am I entitled to?
South Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act provides compensation to employees who have been injured in the workplace. Workers who are injured on the job in South Carolina may be entitled to collect compensation for:
- Weekly temporary total (lost wages)
- Medical care
- Permanent disability benefits
Can I choose my own doctor after a work injury?
Under the current law, injured workers must seek treatment from a medical provider chosen by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company. Those who choose their own doctor without the permission of the employer may be required to pay for their own medical expenses.
However, there are some circumstances where changing your current doctor or choosing one’s own doctor is permissible. For example:
- Emergency care. It’s not uncommon for an employee to require immediate emergency care. For example, a construction worker who falls off scaffolding will, in most cases, require an ambulance trip to the nearest emergency room. Workers’ compensation will generally make allowances for this even though the employer did not authorize the attending physician or the medical facility.
- Initial evaluation. Employees have a right to choose their own physician for their initial injury evaluation. However, those who do should be certain to tell their doctor that they were injured at work and plan to file a claim. Although this initial visit may not be covered by workers’ compensation, the doctor will most likely need to fill out the necessary forms to prove that an injury occurred at work and that it’s severe enough to warrant a claim.
Can I get a second opinion from a workers’ compensation doctor?
In some cases, a doctor may feel that an injury does not qualify for workers’ compensation. In this case, injured workers in South Carolina are entitled to a second opinion. This can be done in 1 of 3 ways:
- Contact the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier,
- Request a hearing with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (Form 50), or
- Contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can assist clients in obtaining quality medical care.
What if I don’t find my current doctor’s quality of care satisfactory?
Problems often arise when injured workers aren’t satisfied with the level of care that the required physician is providing. When this happens, it’s possible to request a change of doctors. The worker must contact the workers’ compensation insurance carrier and follow the required protocol to do so. Another qualified physician will most likely be assigned by the employer’s insurance company.
Am I covered by workers’ compensation insurance?
For individuals injured at their workplace, workers’ compensation benefits can help them get the medical treatment they need. Unfortunately, not all types of jobs or injuries are covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Understanding the basics of workers’ compensation insurance is the first step toward protecting your rights.
An individual must be an employee to obtain workers’ compensation for their injuries. Business owners, sole proprietors and partners don’t automatically qualify as employees. These individuals may have the option to purchase their own workers’ compensation insurance.
Unpaid volunteers who do charitable work or assist non-profit corporations generally don’t qualify as employees either. Even if the unpaid volunteer receives food, transportation or lodging, they are typically not entitled to workers’ compensation unless the organization elects to purchase additional coverage.
Employees who work for the federal government, railroad employees and dock workers in the longshore industry normally don’t fall under the traditional workers’ compensation system. Instead, these workers may receive compensation for their workplace injuries through different means. The Federal Employee’s Compensation Act (FECA) covers industrial injuries and occupational diseases for federal employees. Separate workers’ compensation systems for railroad and dock workers fall under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
Individuals who work for a company as independent contractors also may not be covered under workers’ compensation insurance. For example, realtors and truck drivers operating under an independent contractor lease agreement may be excluded from workers’ compensation benefits.
At times, it’s difficult to determine if a person is working as an employee or independent contractor for the purposes of workers’ compensation eligibility. Just because your employer refers to you as an “independent contractor” doesn’t automatically disqualify you from benefits. Consult with an experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer for assistance in this matter.
Many state laws set forth additional categories of workers who may or may not be eligible for workers’ compensation.
In addition, some job-related injuries may not be covered under workers’ compensation, including injuries related to an employee’s drug or alcohol use at work and injuries sustained while the employee was engaging in illegal conduct or in behavior that was against company policy, such as fighting with a coworker.
Are there any exceptions to workers’ compensation coverage? (Who is NOT covered?)
To qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, the employee must prove that the illness is a direct result of their injury or exposure to hazardous conditions on the job. The flu, arthritis and pneumonia are all serious illnesses that can have catastrophic and debilitating consequences, but they are not considered occupational diseases even if the worker claims to have contracted the illness due to their working environment. Illnesses such as these are common among the public. Even if a worker comes down with the flu because of exposure to a colleague that had the illness, it’s not considered an occupational disease.
What’s more, certain groups of workers in South Carolina are ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits. These include railway express and railroad company employees, federal employees, workers at businesses with less than 4 employees and agricultural workers.
However, even if you think you may be an exception and not be eligible for benefits, you should talk to a knowledgeable attorney to find out if other compensation programs may apply in your case (such as FELA for injured railroad workers and FECA for federal employees).
Can I quit my job while my workers’ compensation claim is open?
The short answer is yes. Your employment status does not alter your right to benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act for an injury that occurred while employed. If you quit your job before your claim is concluded, you will not be disqualified from benefits.
The issue, however, is a bit more complicated and nuanced than a simple yes or no answer. Although leaving your job during the claim will not change your entitlement to medical benefits or a disability award at the conclusion of your claim, it certainly can have negative consequences along the way.
For example, during a workers’ compensation claim, an injured worker may be released to work with restrictions. This gives employers the opportunity to accommodate the work restrictions instead of paying weekly benefits. If this happens to you and you’ve already quit your job, your employer may (or will, most likely) claim that had you not quit, they would have accommodated your restrictions. Depending on how long you’ve been out of work, the employer may be able to immediately stop your weekly benefits, regardless of the veracity of their claim to accommodate restrictions.
If you’re considering quitting your job before your claim is resolved, please contact your attorney before making that decision. We understand there are a host of reasons why you may be considering leaving your job, and the specific facts of your case will determine what the best decision is for you.
Can I be fired while on workers’ compensation? (If I am fired, will I lose my workers’ comp benefits?)
In South Carolina, you cannot be fired for bringing a workers’ compensation claim. You can, however, be fired while your claim is ongoing. Employees are sometimes terminated during their workers’ compensation claims, though this is far less likely for employees who are represented by an attorney.
For those who are fired during their case, employers are typically savvy enough to list the cause for termination as something other than their workers’ comp claim. If you’re concerned you might be terminated during your case, discuss the issue with your attorney so the necessary steps can be taken to protect your rights. Your attorney may suggest you begin keeping detailed records of your interactions with supervisors, logging your time in a journal and taking a host of other steps to protect you in the event your employer does something wrong.
If you are fired during your case, your right to workers’ compensation benefits survives. This is true regardless of the basis of your termination. You should continue to receive medical treatment, your right to an award for disability at the conclusion of your claim should be unaffected and (if you are out of work and receiving a weekly check) your check should continue to arrive in the mail.
There can, however, be negative consequences for your case if you’re fired, which is why it’s important to consult a knowledgeable attorney about your employment rights.
Our Attorneys Are Here to Help You
Founded in 1993, the mission of Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. is to help injured clients get the justice they deserve. Our exceptional, experienced attorneys are licensed to practice in several areas, including all federal and state courts in South Carolina, all state courts in North Carolina, and federal district and appeals courts across the nation. We are also qualiﬁed to serve clients in the Supreme Court of the United States.
Talk To a Knowledgeable Columbia Workers’ Compensation Attorney About Your Rights
If you or a loved one has suffered from a workplace injury or occupational illness, contact the South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. We understand how a work-related injury can change your life. The workers’ compensation system is designed to provide injured workers some wage replacement and cover their medical bills for occupational accidents and illnesses. Unfortunately, it can be a confusing and difficult process to navigate without help from an experienced attorney.
Our knowledgeable lawyers will thoroughly review the facts of your case to determine if negligence by a third party or parties was a factor in your injury. We understand the complexities of workers’ compensation laws in South Carolina, and we will fight tirelessly to win you the compensation you deserve for your suffering. We are experienced negotiators, mediators and litigators who know how to deal with insurance carriers.