If you were injured at work in South Carolina, then you likely have a workers’ compensation claim, which will usually prevent you from pursuing a personal injury claim. However, being covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance only prevents you from pursuing a personal injury claim against your employer or co-workers. It does not prevent you from pursuing a personal injury claim against any third party which is not employed by your employer. In this post, we’ll discuss the differences between workers’ compensation claims and personal injury claims and which circumstances allow for the latter.
How South Carolina Law Applies to Workers’ Compensation Claims
South Carolina law requires that employers who have four or more employees carry workers’ compensation insurance to address any injuries that may occur. It is a no fault system, so that it doesn’t matter what caused the injury as long as it happened in the course of work-related tasks and the victim was not intoxicated nor engaged in unlawful activities. If such circumstances apply, then the injured worker may be denied workers’ compensation benefits, and will likely not be able to pursue a personal injury claim, since the injured worker will be determined to have been at fault for their own injury.
In most cases, however, there is no illegal activity nor intoxication associated with the work-related injury. So, regardless of whose mistake caused the injury, the worker is covered. The employer’s workers’ compensation insurance would then provide medical benefits and wage benefits to the injured worker as-needed. If the employee misses work because of their injuries, they will receive 2/3 of their average weekly wage (AWW) after the seventh day away from work. The first seven days will be covered after the 14th day away from work.
If the employee is able to return to work, but only in a lower paying light-duty position that accommodates medical restrictions prescribed by their treating physician, then the worker can receive wage benefits at 2/3 of the difference between their former AWW and their current AWW.
Beyond this, the workers’ compensation insurance will cover any and all necessary and reasonable medical expenses; though the employee must seek treatment from an approved physician. Be aware that many forms of treatment must be approved prior to being administered.
Although being covered by workers’ compensation insurance means the worker cannot pursue a civil personal injury claim against their employer; as a no-fault system, Workers’ Compensation benefits employees by not requiring proof of liability to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
How South Carolina Law Applies to Personal Injury Claims
A successful personal injury claim involves an injured plaintiff being able to prove that their injuries were caused by the negligence of another party. There are many different types of personal injury claims, including premises liability claims, product liability claims, and auto accident claims – just to name a few. To prove your case in a personal injury claim you must first prove that someone owed you a duty of care – meaning that they were responsible for ensuring your safety. You must then prove that they breached this duty of care by failing to act responsibly to ensure your safety. Finally, you’ll have to prove that the breach of this duty of care by the negligent party proximately caused your injuries and associated expenses.
When Personal Injury Claims Arise from Work Related Injuries
Now that we’ve addressed the differences between workers’ compensation claims and personal injury claims, let’s look at the kinds of work related injuries that could involve personal injury claims. As previously stated, you cannot pursue a personal injury claim against your employer or a co-worker when you are covered by workers’ compensation benefits.
However, when you are not covered by workers’ compensation, then you can file a personal injury claim against your employer; though you will have to prove negligence with the three factors concerning duty of care; breach of that duty, and proximate cause, enumerated above. There are also some situations where you may have a personal injury claim against a third party, who is not employed by your employer. For example: if you are a delivery worker and you are on someone else’s property when the injury occurs, you may have a premises liability claim. Similarly, if you are working with machinery or another product that malfunctions, causing your injury, then you may have a product liability claim. If you are driving for work-related purposes and get into an accident, you may have an auto accident claim.
What You Need to Do After Any Work Related Injury
If you’ve been injured on the job, you can rely on workers’ compensation to provide healthcare and wage benefits; though you cannot always count on it being an easy process. It’s important to do everything correctly and avoid making mistakes if you want to see any of those benefits any time soon.
Start by evaluating your injuries and deciding if you need emergency care. You may need to be transported by ambulance to get immediate treatment. If you need emergency care, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room for treatment. After the emergency treatment, you will need to inform your employer of the incident, fill out an incident report, and then continue your treatment with a company approved physician. There should be a list of company approve physicians posted in your workplace.
If you do not require emergency medical care, then you should report the incident first, then choose from the company approved physicians to seek treatment for the injury. Your employer should then initiate your workers’ compensation claim. If they do not, then you can do so without their assistance with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. This is also the stage where you will want to contact a workers’ compensation attorney. The determined workers’ compensation attorney in South Carolina at the Law Office of H. Chase Harbin can help you through each step of the process and ensure that you are treated fairly and your rights are protected
Chase Harbin is a Criminal Defense Lawyer who practices in Pickens and Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 17 years now. Chase Harbin believes in defending the accused. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.