South Carolina Workers’ Compensation: What you need to know
If you’re working in South Carolina, you may be wondering how to get benefits under South Carolina workers’ compensation, who is covered under workers’ comp and who isn’t, what you’re entitled to, and what to do if you’re injured or become ill on the job.
As experienced workers’ compensation attorneys, we’ve helped many people understand how the system works so they know what to expect when filing a claim for benefits. Here’s what you need to know about workers’ comp in South Carolina.
SC Workers’ Compensation Laws
Worker’s compensation is a state-run program that compensates employees for injuries that occur on the job or occupational diseases that arise from the course of their work. Each state’s program is slightly different.
In South Carolina, Title 42 of the South Carolina Code is the body of law on the system for our state. It describes the nature and duties of the SC Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC), located in Columbia, SC, which oversees and administers the program. Title 42 also determines exactly who is covered (workers) and who must provide coverage (employers), exactly what amount of compensation is available based on the illness or injury sustained, and much, much more.
The rest of this blog will discuss some pertinent parts of the law and the program that are likely most applicable to you.
Your Rights Under the SC Workers’ Compensation Act
As long as you are covered under workers’ comp (not all workers are; see exceptions below), you have rights under the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. Here are some of those rights:
- You are entitled to receive compensation for injuries sustained on the job or occupational diseases that are the result of your workplace environment or working conditions. In the event of a covered worker’s death, survivors are entitled to death benefits.
- You have 90 days to report your injury or illness to your employer and up to two years to bring a claim.
- You can request a hearing with the SCWCC if you believe you aren’t receiving the benefits you deserve, if you believe your claim was wrongly denied, or if your employer didn’t file a claim on your behalf.
Under this act, you do not have a right to choose your own doctor – your employer chooses for you. And, with some exceptions, you are barred from suing your employer or co-worker for your accident, even if you believe they were responsible for it. That’s because workers’ comp in South Carolina is a no-fault system, meaning it’s not necessary to prove who or what caused the accident.
Relevant blog: Can I Sue My Employer for My Workplace Accident?
Relevant blog: Can I Sue My Coworker for My Workplace Accident?
What Workers’ Compensation Covers in South Carolina
South Carolina workers’ compensation covers and pays out benefits for the following things:
- Injuries from accidents that happen on the job – not only in the workplace, but potentially outside the workplace, too, as long as the injury occurred during the course of the work, possibly including repetitive trauma injuries.
- Occupational diseases arising from workplace or working conditions, such as occupational respiratory disease.
- Death that occurred on the job, in which case compensation goes to the deceased worker’s dependents.
What’s not covered under South Carolina workers’ comp? Injuries or illnesses that are not shown to have occurred as a result of work are not covered, and mental health injuries, such as PTSD, are frequently denied coverage. If you have mental health issues that are accompanied by physical injury, you’re more likely to have a successful claim, but in general, claims for standalone mental health issues are much more difficult.
Relevant blog: Auto Accidents on the Job: 5 Things to Know
Relevant blog: Workers’ Comp for Repetitive Trauma Injury in South Carolina
Exceptions to Workers’ Comp Coverage
There are important exceptions to workers’ comp coverage in South Carolina that you should know about:
- Independent contractors (as opposed to W-2 employees) are not intended to be covered.
- If the worker was committing a crime, engaged in roughhousing, or intentionally trying to hurt themselves or someone else when the injury occurred, it may not be covered.
- Certain employers in SC, including some in the agriculture and railroad industries, and some with a total annual payroll of less than $3,000, are not required to take part in workers’ comp.
Workers who aren’t covered under workers’ comp would need to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the party responsible in order to receive compensation rather than rely on the guaranteed benefits through the workers’ comp program.
Relevant blog: Is My Injury Covered by Workers Comp?
South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claims
How does the workers’ compensation claims process work in South Carolina?
You, the worker, are responsible for reporting your injury to your supervisor or someone from HR, and from there your employer is usually responsible for filing a claim on your behalf.
It’s important to know that you have just 90 days to report your injury to your employer, though you have up to two years from the date of injury to put in a claim for benefits.
In the majority of cases, that’s all you have to do in order to start receiving your benefits. However, if you discover that your employer never filed a claim for you, it was denied, or you aren’t receiving the compensation you believe you deserve, you can file a claim yourself with the SCWCC using Form 50 (for injury or illness) or Form 52 (for death) that’s available on their website.
Relevant blog: Possible Reasons Why Your Workers’ Comp Claim Was Denied
Types of South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Workers’ comp pays out compensation in the following categories, depending on the nature and severity of the injury or illness:
- Medical expenses, including prescription costs and travel costs related to medical treatment
- Lost wages, which are paid at a rate of two-thirds (66.6%) of the worker’s average weekly wages, up to a maximum which is determined by law and changes yearly (for 2020, the maximum is $866.67 per week)
- Disability and disfigurement
- Death benefits to dependents
What does workers’ comp not pay for? Workers’ comp does not pay for pain and suffering, and other similar noneconomic damages. This is one of the clear differences between workers’ comp and personal injury lawsuits, which can pay out such damages.
Relevant blog: How Much Money Am I Supposed to Get When I’m Out Of Work?
Seeking medical care, if needed, is the first step if you are critically injured at work.
Next, report your injury as soon as possible to your employer. Even though you have 90 days to tell your employer, the sooner you report it, the sooner you can start receiving benefits.
In some situations, you can go through the claims process yourself, and you’ll find it straightforward. In other situations, you should consider working with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Reasons include:
- Your claim was never filed by your employer.
- Your claim was denied.
- You’re not receiving all the benefits you believe you should be.
- Your illness or injury was severe and has required significant time off of work and/or has left you permanently disabled, disfigured, or incapacitated in some way.
- You are the surviving dependent of a worker who was killed on the job and are seeking death benefits.
Relevant blog: What if I didn’t report my work injury the day it happened?
Speak to an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
The benefits you receive through workers’ compensation can make a big difference to you and your family’s future, so it’s important to make sure you’re receiving what you’re entitled to under the law. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation at The Carolina Law Group, so there’s no downside and nothing to lose by speaking with one of our workers’ comp attorneys about your case. Call one of the numbers below to schedule your free consultation today.
The Carolina Law Group has three offices in upstate South Carolina for your convenience: Greenville (principal office; call 864.312.4444), Greer (principal office; call 864.757.5555), and Spartanburg (principal office; call 864.757.5555). Call today.