When you’ve suffered an injury or illness as a result of your job, you have to make a lot of decisions in a very brief amount of time. "What sort of medical care do I need to pursue, if any? How long will I be out of work while I am recovering? Will my family still be able to pay our bills? Are there any long-term effects that may never go away as a result of this injury?" One of the most important questions you’ll need to answer is, Do I need to file for Worker’s Compensation?
Many of South Carolinas citizens know the basics — if you’re hurt on the job, file for Workers’ Comp. Unfortunately, the law surrounding these claims can be very complex, involving rules and regulations that aren’t often made clear to the employee prior to a workplace injury. We’d like to take some time to answer some of the most common questions we hear regarding Workers’ Compensation claims and what your rights are after a workplace-related injury or illness.
What is Workers’ Compensation?
In short, the law regarding worker's compensation defines it as a program that compensates employees for the economic consequences of work-related injury, illness, and disease without regard to fault.
The first governing body created to administer and enforce workers’ compensation law in our state was the South Carolina Industrial Commission, created in September 1st, 1935, with the Industrial Commission becoming officially known as the more clarified South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission in 1986.
Over the course of some eighty years, the law has evolved to match the way that workplace environments, machinery, and technology have changed. The law itself has been altered through administrative policies and procedures, through case law, and amended by statute. Nonetheless, the purpose of the law has always remained the same — to help employees injured or sickened as a result of their jobs to have some economic recourse while they recover.
Why Do We Have Workers’ Compensation?
Workers have not always enjoyed much in the way of protections when it came to illness, injury, or compensation. Before 1935, compensation for on-the-job injury was only possible by traversing the traditional civil court system, and required the employee to prove that their employer’s negligence had been the cause of their illness or injury.
An inefficient system at best, the courts were bogged down by cases that were too hard to conclusively prove. This system was hard on everyone — rough on employees forced to prove employer negligence despite their employer being the one who held all the relevant evidence and information, and hard on employers unable to predict or plan for the inconsistent rulings and possibly stuck paying big verdicts if they lost.
South Carolina took proactive steps to address these inefficiencies by creating an administrative agency specifically and exclusively to handle accidents that occurred on the job.
Who is Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
Although there are notable exceptions, every South Carolina employer and employee is presumed covered by the SC Workers’ Compensation Act. Exceptions to this assumption include South Carolina federal employees, workers at a business which employs fewer than four people, agricultural employees, independent contractors, railroad and railway express companies and employees, certain real estate salespersons, and what are termed “casual employees” — workers with employment that is occasional or incidental and without regularity.
Employers are legally required to maintain a level of insurance that is sufficient to pay workers’ compensation benefits, or else must prove to the SC Workers’ Compensation Commission proof of their ongoing ability to pay the necessary amount of compensation that would be due an injured employees. The state’s Department of Insurance maintains responsibility for approving the rate and classification of workers’ compensation insurers, while the Commission is responsible for approving the rate and commission for all individual and group self-insurance (in the case of companies who choose not to take specific Workers’ Compensation insurance and instead pay the amount themselves.
I Need More Information. Where Can I Turn?
We’ll be continuing this series through four more parts, answering questions about compensation amounts, the difference between total and partial disability, what your rights are when dealing with workplace illness as opposed to workplace injury, and many other common Workers’ Compensation questions we’ve received.
Our attorneys are dedicated to helping improve the quality of life for South Carolina citizens, so if you’ve been injured or become ill on the job, Bluestein Attorneys is the firm to call. You can reach us by phone at (803) 779-7599 or just click the banner below to schedule your free consultation.