Navigating South Carolina’s Complex Workers’ Compensation Laws

Universally in the United States, laws surrounding workers’ compensation were enacted to provide a satisfactory means to legally and financially handle occupational disabilities due to accidents in the workplace. Programs nationwide provide punitive damages and medical care for injuries or illnesses caused while on the job. And anyone who suffers from an injury or illness related to their occupation is eligible for benefits.

But in South Carolina, there are some exceptions to workers’ compensation claims based on the type of occupation. For example, employees of these fields of labor are ineligible:

  • Corporate officers
  • Federal employees working in South Carolina
  • Railway express and railroad companies
  • Agricultural industry
  • Businesses with less than four employees
  • Some real estate agents
  • Some temp workers

As a “no-fault” system, employees are not required to prove that their employer was at fault to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The only thing they have to demonstrate is that their injury occurred at or was caused or related to their workplace. Additionally, there may be some facts you may not know about South Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws, but the Mickle & Bass law firm has outlined them in detail, and you can read their blog post here.

Workers’ Compensation Objectives

There are six basic underlying objectives of the laws surrounding workers compensation:

  1. To provide prompt and reasonable income and medical benefits to victims of work-related accidents and/or benefits to their dependents.
  2. To reduce or remedy court costs, delays, and judicial workloads due to personal injury litigation.
  3. To relieve public and private charities of financial demands of their obligation to uncompensated occupational accident victims.
  4. To minimize the payment of fees to lawyers and witnesses, as well as court appeals and time-consuming trials.
  5. To encourage maximum interest in safety and rehabilitation on the part of employers through an appropriate experience rating mechanism.
  6. To promote the honest and impartial study of occupational accident causes in an effort to reduce preventable accidents and human suffering.

Workers’ Compensation Coverage

Provisions of the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act cover most employers (except where indicated above), who are required to maintain sufficient insurance to compensate their injured workers. The South Carolina Department of Insurance is responsible for rate approvals and workers’ compensation insurer classifications.

Earning Compensation

Per eligibility, any workplace accident is subject to earning compensation. It will pay for any necessary medical treatment, loss of wages, and for any permanent disability or disfigurement. Inability to work past seven days due to injury will earn you 66.6% of your average weekly rate of pay. If the period of disability exceeds 14 days, compensation eligibility begins on the date of the accident.

The maximum earnings for total disability are limited to 500 weeks of compensation, based on your weekly rate of pay. The loss of limbs, vision, or a combination thereof constitute permanent disability under the law. Compensation for partial disability or disfigurement is generally established by statutes of limitations. Occupational diseases are covered under the law as well.

If you are injured on the job, immediately report the accident to your employer. Wait no more than 90 days to notify your employer, and no longer than two years to file a claim. Failure to comply with timeliness statutes may jeopardize your opportunities for entitled compensation. Once the employer is aware of your accident, they have 10 days to report it to the Workers’ Compensation Commission. If you are denied benefits, you have the right to seek legal representation and file an appeal in South Carolina.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.