Working in the construction industry can be dangerous. Across the U.S., a construction worker’s likelihood of suffering an injury on the job is more than 70% higher than that of a worker in any other occupation. In South Carolina, 25% of on-the-job fatalities each year take place on construction sites. Despite their high risk of injury and death, however, not all South Carolina construction workers have the same access to workers’ compensation as other workers.
Common Construction Site Accidents
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists the following accidents as the most common causes of injury or death on construction sites:
A worker is injured when a body part gets caught in or between pieces of equipment.
A worker comes into contact with bare wires or a downed powerline.
Being hit by a falling object.
Bricks, metal, or lumber can fall from a scaffolding or crane and strike a worker below.
A worker slips and falls off a roof, ladder, truck, or scaffolding.
Lack of training, poor lighting, fires, explosions, and violation of safety regulations also lead to construction site accidents and injuries that could be covered by workers’ compensation.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance that covers employees’ work-related injuries and occupational illnesses. If you suffer injury or illness in the course of performing your job duties, workers’ comp should cover all your medical expenses and two-thirds of your lost wages, as well as disability care and vocational re-training in some cases. Almost every South Carolina business with four or more employees is required by law to carry workers’ comp insurance for its employees, but there are exceptions.
If your employer carries workers’ comp insurance and you’re eligible to receive it, you should immediately report any work-related injury you suffer to your boss or a claims administrator at your workplace. If you develop an occupational illness over time, report it as soon as it’s diagnosed. You have 90 days to report your injury or illness, but you should not wait. If your employer doesn’t file your claim with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC), do so yourself with a Form-50 from the SCWCC website. Although you have two years to file, don’t wait. Any delay in reporting and filing gives your employer’s insurance company ammunition to dispute your claim.
After filing, see the doctor recommended by your employer’s insurer (not your own doctor). Follow that doctor’s orders and keep documentation of your treatment and recovery. If your employer denies your claim, delays approval of necessary treatment, or retaliates against you for filing, your lawyer can guide you through the appeals process.
Injuries and Illnesses Covered by Workers’ Comp
Construction-site accidents and conditions can lead to a number of injuries and illnesses that could be covered by workers’ comp:
- Cuts, lacerations, and contusions from falling objects
- Lung damage from toxic chemicals or fumes
- Carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitive motion
- Broken bones or torn ligaments from slip-and-fall mishaps
- Dislocation or degeneration of joints from lifting and carrying heavy objects
- Herniated discs, fractured vertebrae, and other spinal injuries
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
- Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD)
Injuries and conditions that are not covered by workers comp, even if your employer has coverage and you’re eligible, include aneurism, embolism, heart attack, stroke, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD). Whatever your injury or illness is, you’re not eligible for workers’ comp if, at the time of your accident, you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, injured yourself intentionally, or were hurt in the process of committing a crime.
Employer and Employee Workers’ Comp Exemptions
South Carolina businesses that are not required to purchase workers’ comp insurance include those with fewer than four employees, those with yearly payrolls of less than $3,000, agricultural businesses, and railroads. Such employers have the option of carrying workers’ comp voluntarily, but they don’t have to.
Some employees who are not eligible to receive workers’ comp benefits for a work-related injury or illness include commissioned real estate agents and independent contractors. Construction workers may be categorized as independent contractors who receive 1099 wage statements.
While some companies list all 1099 workers as contractors to avoid paying for their workers’ comp coverage, not every such employee is technically an independent contractor, so some construction workers might be covered while others are not. To make matters more complicated, general contractors sometimes require the subcontractors on a construction job to purchase workers’ comp coverage for their casual workers in case they suffer injuries in on-the-job mishaps. For these reasons, the services of an experienced lawyer are often necessary to determine whether your construction-related injury or illness is covered by workers’ comp and to help you get fair benefits.
What to Do If You’re Not Covered
If your employer is not exempt but still does not carry workers’ comp insurance, you might be able to file a claim for compensation with the South Carolina Uninsured Employers' Fund (UEF). The UEF was created to ensure payments of workers' compensation benefits to injured employees whose employers have failed to acquire necessary coverage for their employees in accordance with South Carolina workers' compensation laws.
Workers’ comp essentially eliminates and replaces lawsuits filed by injured employees against their employers, so you can’t sue your employer for your injury if the company carries workers’ comp. If, on the other hand, your injury or illness was partially or completely caused by a third party (an employee of a different company working on the same construction site with you, for example), you might be able to bring a suit against that third party for your damages. Your third-party claim could include compensation for pain and suffering, which workers’ comp does not pay.
Have You Been Injured On The Job In South Carolina?
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.