How Do I Know if My Employer Has Workers' Compensation Insurance?

In South Carolina, most businesses and companies with four or more employees are legally required to carry workers' compensation insurance, but some exceptions exist. The following employers may choose to purchase workers' compensation coverage if they want to, but they are not required to do so:

  • Businesses with fewer than four employees
  • Companies with yearly payrolls of less than $3,000
  • Railroads and railway express companies
  • Agricultural businesses
  • State and county fair associations

You can find out if your employer carries workers' compensation insurance by checking the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission (SCWCC) website. Once you are on the site, you can click the "verify coverage" link to see if your employer is covered. Alternatively, you can ask your Charleston workers' compensation lawyer to find this out for you. 

Can I Receive Workers' Compensation Benefits?

Generally, you can receive workers' compensation payments if you are an employee who was hurt at work. However, you may not be eligible for workers' compensation in South Carolina if you are a:

  • Federal employee of the state (the Federal workers' comp system may apply)
  • Commissioned real estate agent working for brokers
  • Member of a limited liability corporation (LLC)
  • Sole proprietor
  • Casual employee working on an as-needed basis
  • Independent contractor

Can I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit for a Work-Related Injury?

If your employer carries workers' compensation insurance, you may not sue your employer for damages resulting from a work-related accident. A workers' comp claim is your only way to secure compensation. If, however, a third party who your company does not employ is entirely or partially responsible for your on-the-job injury, you may be able to file a lawsuit against that third party for maximum compensation after a workplace accident. Examples include:

  • An outside cleaning company whose employee spills liquid on the floor and negligently causes you to slip and fall
  • The manufacturer of equipment or machinery that malfunctions in your workplace and causes you to sustain cuts, burns, or broken bones

third-party suit against such a defendant might compensate you for the one-third of your lost wages that workers' comp does not cover, physical pain, emotional suffering, and other damages. Your workers' comp lawyer can help you file a workers' compensation claim and pursue a personal injury lawsuit if appropriate.

Does Workers' Compensation Include Lost Wages?

Yes, South Carolina workers' compensation generally reimburses two-thirds of the lost wages you did not receive while off work for treatment and recovery after a work-related injury or illness. 

This amount is based on the four quarters before your injury but no more than the average weekly wage determined each year by the South Carolina Employment Security Commission. 

If you were working two or more jobs at the time of the accident, those wages may be included as part of the average weekly wage and compensation rate.

If you are hurt on the job and cannot work, there is a seven-day waiting period before benefits can be paid from workers' compensation. If you are out of work for more than seven days, payments will come from your employer's insurance representative. If you are out of work for more than 14 days, you will also receive compensation for the first seven days missed. 

You can expect payments to be made directly to you, and these workers' compensation benefits should continue until the doctor releases you to return to work.

What Should I Do If I've Been Hurt at Work?

After your accidental injury, you should report it in writing to your supervisor or a claims administrator at your workplace as soon as possible. Although you have 90 days to do so, you should not wait. Any delay on your part may be used against you by the insurer.

Your next step is to file a claim for benefits with the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission (SCWCC) by submitting Form 50 from the SCWCC website. You have two years to do so, but again, you should not wait. The insurance company may cite any delay on your part in reporting and filing as evidence that your injury is not work-related or not as severe as you claim.

Additionally, you should seek a medical diagnosis and treatment from a physician certified and recommended by the insurer. You may not simply see your own doctor; doing so could damage your claim. Follow all of the doctor's advice and adhere to all treatment guidelines. Keep your appointments, follow up on referrals, retain receipts for all your treatments, take medications as prescribed, and keep a daily journal of your treatment and recovery. If you're unsatisfied with your doctor or treatment, your attorney can help you seek an independent medical exam (IME).

How Long Can I Receive Workers' Compensation in South Carolina?

Workers' compensation lost-wage benefits are generally capped at 500 weeks in South Carolina, but how long you can collect them varies according to the details of your claim.

What Happens When I Go Back to Work?

When your lost wage benefits end depends on the severity of your injury, the type and number of treatments you require, and the demands of your position. When your doctor decides you've reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), you can be released to return to your regular job, and your weekly benefits will be terminated. It's possible, however, that your doctor will release you with an impairment rating and work restrictions limiting how long you can stand up, how much weight you can lift, or how much bending you can do.

If your work restrictions prevent you from performing your previous job, you might be offered a light-duty job that accommodates your restrictions. When this happens, you must make every effort to do that job or risk losing your benefits. If your light-duty job pays less than your previous position, you could be eligible for two-thirds of the difference between the two pay rates.

I wasn't hurt in a work accident. Can I still get workers' compensation benefits?

You can receive workers' compensation benefits for work-related injuries that develop over time. Below are some examples of how this could happen.

Occupational Illness

The burden is on you to prove your condition was caused or aggravated by exposure to workplace conditions. For example, if you work in an environment with a high noise level that causes you to sustain hearing loss over time, your employer might dispute your claim because hearing loss can occur for reasons unrelated to your work.

Repetitive Stress Injury

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and back or joint conditions can develop over time from repeating the same physical tasks daily for years. Because these conditions don't occur instantly as an accidental injury does, you have to prove the connection between your work and your repetitive stress condition. 

Cumulative Trauma

A stroke or heart attack that occurs outside work might still be work-related if you can document factors that contributed to it, such as exposure to heat or extreme physical exertion. Even if you had a preexisting condition that was made worse by these factors, you may still file a claim if you can prove the aggravation of the condition was work-related.

An experienced attorney can help you meet your workers' compensation burden of proof by:

  • Organizing and presenting your medical history and records of your treatments
  • Interviewing witnesses to your condition and calling in expert medical witnesses if necessary
  • Obtaining video footage from workplace security cameras that recorded your daily activities and injury
  • Using your injury report to document the time and cause of your accident

Our Charleston Workers' Compensation Attorneys Will Ask You Questions

During an initial consultation at our South Carolina law firm, you can expect our team to ask you a series of questions to assess your situation comprehensively. This information helps us provide you with the most accurate advice and legal guidance tailored to your specific circumstances. Here are some of the key workers' compensation questions you can anticipate during your consultation.

Please Tell Us All About Your Work-Related Injury

We want to know the details of what happened to you. Accordingly, we will ask about the nature of your workplace injury or illness.

Did You Get Medical Treatment for Your Injury?

We will ask about the doctors you've seen, your diagnoses, treatment plan, medical expenses, and permission to access your medical records.

Please Describe Your Work History and Employment Status

We'll inquire about your work history, including your job responsibilities, how long you've been with your employer, and your employment status (full-time, part-time, or temporary).

Who is Your Employer? Do You Know Your Employer's Insurer?

We will need information about your employer, including their workers' compensation insurance carrier. If you have any documents or communications related to your injury from your employer or their insurer, we encourage you to bring them to our meeting.

How Has Your Injury Affected Your Ability to Work?

Our workers' compensation lawyers want to know if you've lost wages and whether you anticipate future financial losses.

Did You Have Any Diagnosed Medical Conditions Before Your Work Injury?

Preexisting conditions may not disqualify you from receiving workers' compensation benefits, but your lawyer needs to know about them to fight for your fair compensation.

Who Do You Think Caused Your Accident Injury?

We will explore whether there might be third parties (individuals or entities not directly associated with your employer) who could be liable for your injuries.

Have You Told Anyone About Your Claim?

Have you reported your injury to your employer as required? Have you filed a workers' compensation claim with the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission?

Understanding your unique situation is crucial to determining the best course of action for your workers' compensation claim. Our goal is to provide you with the personalized legal assistance you need to secure the benefits you deserve for your workplace injuries. During the consultation, you can feel free to ask us any questions or address any concerns you may have. We're here to guide you through the process and work diligently to protect your rights and interests.

Dirk J. Derrick
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South Carolina Lawyer Dirk Derrick helps victims recover from car accidents, personal injury & wrongful death.