You might be able to sue a liable third party for a work-related injury without jeopardizing your workers’ comp claim. Because the two legal actions are completely separate, however, the process could get complicated. There are differences in:
- Procedural requirements
- Where to file your claim
- What you can claim and receive
- When and how you’ll receive your settlement
You’re most likely to get the compensation you deserve by working with an attorney.
Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim In South Carolina
With rare exceptions, South Carolina companies employing four or more people must carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover employees’ work-related injuries and illnesses. Because workers’ comp is no-fault insurance, you don’t have to prove that your employer was negligent in order to receive benefits. If your claim is accepted, however, it will cover only economic damages:
- Medical bills
- Two-thirds of lost wages
- Disability benefits (which are limited in most cases to 500 weeks/10 years)
- Vocational retraining
- Death benefits
Workers’ comp does not provide compensation for the remaining one-third of lost wages or for non-economic damages that you could recover in a civil personal injury suit:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional/psychological anguish
- Lost quality of life
You’re generally not permitted to file a personal injury suit against your employer or a co-worker for damages in a work-related claim. Workers’ compensation is your only remedy unless you can prove your injury or illness resulted from either:
- Your employer’s gross negligence
- Your employer’s intention to hurt you
Filing a Third-Party Workers' Compensation Lawsuit
You might be able to file a third-party lawsuit, in addition to your workers’ comp claim against your employer, if:
Defective workplace equipment causes your injury.
You could recover damages from the manufacturer of that equipment or an outside company that maintains/repairs it.
You’re injured in a car accident caused by a non-employee of your company.
You could file a third-party suit against the at-fault driver if you were hit while operating a company vehicle or your own vehicle for work purposes.
An outside vendor or contractor operates negligently in your workplace.
You could have a cause of action against a janitorial service that cleans the building at night and leaves a slick floor that causes you to slip and fall.
A public utility is responsible for your injury or illness.
You could possibly sue a utility company if you’re hurt due to a gas or electricity malfunction on the job,
You’re hurt in a workplace where multiple employers are represented.
On a construction site, for example, you could file a third-party claim against a company (other than your own employer) that caused your injury through negligence.
Only when your workers’ comp case is finalized will you know your award and what you should claim in a third-party suit to recover your damages, so your workers’ comp claim must be completed first. Within one year after your employer’s insurance company accepts that claim, you must file your third-party suit and submit Form S-2 to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC) no later than 30 days after filing.
Form S-2 gives the employer’s insurance company a subrogation claim on your third-party settlement. Because you may not collect double compensation for one injury/illness in South Carolina, you must essentially repay the insurance company for some or all of the benefits you’ve already received if your personal injury award exceeds your damages. Your lawyer can help you negotiate a reasonable repayment amount. If you do not file a third-party claim against the negligent party that caused your accident, your employer’s insurance company might do so to recoup the money paid out for your workers’ comp claim.
The Role of Your Attorney In A South Carolina Workers' Compensation Claim
Filing either a workers’ comp claim or a personal injury lawsuit can be a tedious and complicated business, especially if you’re recovering from recent injuries. Your attorney can take the burden off your shoulders by:
- Organizing your evidence, presenting your case to your employer’s insurance company, and negotiating for benefits
- Identifying possible third-party defendants of whom you might not even be aware
- Assessing the value of your total damages, including pain and suffering, to make a fair demand for compensation from the liable third party
Have You Been Injured On The Job?
If you've been hurt at your job you can speak with a workers' compensation lawyer. Please contact us online or call our Charleston, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach or North Charleston office locations.