If you’ve been injured at work, it can be a scary time to know how to best move forward. You’re not only dealing with potentially serious health problems, but have the added worry of time away from work. When you’re worried about how to pay mounting medical bills and how to continue to provide for your family, it can be a relief to turn to an experienced Greenwood, SC workers’ compensation attorney who can provide advice and help guide you through the process. To find out more about the South Carolina workers’ comp system, keep reading.
What is the workers’ comp system?
Workers’ compensation is the legally mandated insurance program that provides financial compensation for employees who suffer job-related accidents, injuries or illnesses. Generally, the workers’ comp system works to reimburse medical expenses and lost wages related to on-the-job injuries, ensuring that workers are not left to bear the financial burden of a workplace injury.
Which workers are covered by workers’ comp?
Many employees fear that the workers’ comp system doesn’t apply to them, worrying that should an accident occur they will be left out, with few places to turn. The good news is that the workers’ comp system applies to nearly all employees in South Carolina, with a few important exceptions. One such exception includes independent contractors. Independent contractors are those who work without the daily supervision and control of a boss. Sometimes employers will call workers independent contractors when they really are not, if you feel this may be happening to you it’s something worth discussing with a Greenwood, SC workers’ comp attorney.
Another group of employees that are not covered by the workers’ comp system are in agriculture or with the railroads. Federal employees and those who work for small business with fewer than four workers are also excluded from the state’s workers’ comp system.
The general rule in South Carolina says that all employers with at least four full or part-time employees must have workers’ compensation insurance coverage. This is very good news for most employees in the state in that it ensures coverage and compensation in the event of a workplace injury, something that, without such coverage, could leave workers in a precarious financial position.
It’s crucially important in a South Carolina workers’ comp case to move quickly, in terms of notifying your employer of your injury, in terms of seeking medical treatment and in terms of reaching out to a lawyer of your own. If you delay, you risk not only worsening your condition, but having your employer deny the claim. The longer the gap between when the harm occurred and when the claim is filed, the harder it becomes to prove that the injury didn’t happen outside of work.
Can you sue?
Some injured workers may believe that it’s better to avoid the workers’ compensation system that the law has put in place and instead handle the matter on your own, by filing a private civil claim against your employer. Though you may want to pursue this avenue rather than following the standard process, you are unfortunately not given the choice. Except under very limited circumstances where an exception may exist, workers are barred from filing private claims against employers or co-workers related to workplace injuries. The reason for this is that when employers spend money to provide workers’ compensation coverage, they are then given protection from personal injury claims brought by workers. The workers’ comp system functions as a kind of trade-off, employees lose the right to sue employers, but gain the guaranteed coverage that comes with the workers’ comp coverage.
One of the most confusing aspects of the South Carolina workers’ comp system, and one that differs the most from other personal injury claims, concerns fault. In normal personal injury cases, the plaintiff is required to prove (among other things) that the defendant was responsible for causing the harm suffered by the plaintiff, meaning that the defendant was at fault for the accident.
Though this would seem to make sense and apply in other cases, the workers’ comp system turns this on its head. In South Carolina, the workers’ comp process is known as a “no fault” system, meaning that employees are not required to prove that someone else, whether it be the employer or another employee, was at fault to receive benefits. In fact, all the employee needs to do is show that the injury was a work related injury and he or she can file a claim for benefits.
What you may be asking now is what happens if the employee is the one responsible for causing the injury? Good question. Interestingly, the no fault system applies even when it is the injured employee who caused the harm. That means if a worker slips and falls due to his own negligence, he would still be entitled to receive compensation under the workers comp system. The reason for this seemingly generous system is to save workers the trouble of having to prove fault, the goal being to speed up the process and lower the overall costs associated with such claims. There are exceptions to the no fault rule, however, such as in cases where the employee causes the harm either intentionally (an attempt to hurt himself) or does so due to intoxication with either drugs or alcohol.
Why Should I Hire An Attorney?
Is it always required that someone injured on-the-job needs to hire an attorney to handle his or her case? No. There are certainly times where it may not make sense to hire a Greenwood, SC workers’ comp lawyer. Examples include when you’ve suffered a very minor injury, such as a small cut, a bruise or a lightly twisted ankle. If you’ve missed little or no work and your employer admits that the injury happened at work and as you suggest, then these are relatively easy cases that you may be able to handle on your own.
Hiring a lawyer becomes not only useful, but essential in more complicated workers’ comp cases. In cases where your employer has denied your claim and appears willing to fight to ensure you do not receive the benefits to which you are entitled, it can be a tremendous asset to have a skilled workers’ comp lawyer on your side. The same is true if you are offered money that you believe fails to compensate you for the harm you’ve suffered. Hiring a lawyer can also be extremely important in cases where you haven’t been able to return to work and may be looking at a situation involving permanent or partial disability. Lawyers are also crucial defenders in cases where an employer retaliates against injured workers or where there may be possible third-party claims.
For any further questions, please call us 855-213-4405 for a consultation.