Automotive, agribusiness, manufacturing, aerospace, and technology industries, among others, represent the workforce of South Carolina. The state is also known for its traditional natural resources, where residents can do wildlife watching, fishing, hunting, mining, and nature-based tourism businesses. These activities have been made possible by the state’s unique natural resources, such as its 1,617 lakes, 74 Heritage Preserves, 47 state parks, and 1.1 million acres of wildlife management areas. These resources opened 31,958 jobs in the state, resulting in an annual output of $2.74 billion.
South Carolina’s workforce has been instrumental in the state’s economic development. With the state’s rise in the economy, Fortune 1000 companies have also started to grow their ventures in South Carolina. However, despite the positive news of newly opened jobs and high value added to the state, there are always events that can turn the economy upside down. Since the state has introduced tens and thousands of employment opportunities to its residents, the number of reported injuries from these jobs has also begun to rise.
In South Carolina, the common industries with the most reported injuries by OSHA in 2021, as reported by Stacker.com, include:
Number of Injuries in 2021
Health Care and Social Assistance
If you or your loved one works in one of these industries or any industry in the Palmetto State, it’s best to know what to do if you’re faced with the challenge of filing a workers’ compensation claim. The sections below will discuss South Carolina workers’ comp laws, the step-by-step process of starting a claim, what to do if your claim has been denied, and the legal resources you might need to help with your case.
South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Insurance Requirements
Minimum Employee Requirement and Exemptions
With a minimum of four employees, businesses in South Carolina are required to purchase workers’ comp insurance for their staff members. However, this only applies to certain businesses; firms like agricultural and railway express companies, along with state and county fair associations, are exempted from this rule. Moreover, casual and federal employees, sole proprietors, independent contractors, partners, and real estate agents who work for brokers are not required to get South Carolina workers’ comp insurance.
How to Purchase South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Insurance
There are three ways to purchase a workers’ compensation insurance policy in South Carolina. The first option is to buy the policy from the South Carolina State Accident Fund, which has been the leading underwriter of workers’ comp insurance in the state since 1943.
Employers can also choose to apply for self-insurance at the Self-Insurance Division, which is an option appropriate for larger businesses. The division, however, only approves self-insured employers if they meet the requirements, such as providing three years of GAAP audited financial statements along with their application. Moreover, approved self-insurers are required by the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission to pay self-insurance taxes to the state as the fiscal year ends.
Another option for purchasing South Carolina workers’ comp insurance is to have it underwritten by private agencies.
Upon purchase of the policy, employer liability insurance, which is also referred to as stop-gap coverage, is already included in the plan. This insurance is designed to protect business owners from negligence-related litigation that involves their employees. Employers' liability has limitations and can only pay for attorney defense, court expenses, fees, and settlements, if applicable.
There are no set fines or penalties for not carrying workers’ compensation insurance in South Carolina. However, as stated in the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, employers can file certain documents with the Commission to maintain workers’ rights protection under the law.
If companies fail to file these forms, they will have to face the associated fines set by the Commission. However, if the company refuses to pay the fine, it can still attempt to appeal to the Commission through firstname.lastname@example.org.
Workers’ Compensation Compliance Poster Requirement
The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulations requires businesses to put up posters of their workers’ comp insurance policy in their place of business. These posters include:
Payment of Wages, Child Labor, and Right-to-Work Laws
These resource materials must be displayed in places accessible to employees. If a business does not follow the guidelines for posting these materials, it can face fines or penalties.
LLR also recommends the display of the contact information of governing agencies that handle work-related issues in the state.
South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Benefits
If you have been injured while on the job, you are entitled to receive South Carolina workers’ comp benefits, which include:
Medical expenses - This is the most commonly sought-after and discussed coverage in the state. For instance, if a worker has been injured on the job and is written out of work by a physician authorized by the insurance coverage, the worker will be entitled to receive workers’ compensation disability benefits. However, this will only apply if you are eligible for the benefits. Should you have questions regarding your eligibility, you can contact your assigned adjuster or employer.
Lost wages - You will also be compensated for lost wages if you miss work due to your job-related injuries. South Carolina’s workers’ comp law states that you will be reimbursed two-thirds of the income that you lost while on treatment or rehabilitation.
Temporary Total Disability - This type of benefit, which pays 66.67% of your average weekly income, will be given to you if you are experiencing restrictions due to your treatment. The compensation amount will be calculated from the records of wages provided by your employer.
Temporary Partial Disability - This benefit will reimburse you with the same percentage of Temporary Total Disability and will also be paid to you weekly. The only difference is that this type of benefit applies to injured employees who are receiving lower wages or working reduced hours due to their job-related injury.
How to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim in South Carolina
Filing a South Carolina workers’ compensation claim is a detailed and multi-step process. There are certain responsibilities that both the employee and employer need to fulfill in order to uphold the right to file a claim or appeal to the Commission.
To make sure that you are fulfilling the requirements and meeting the deadlines, it is important to stay informed about the specific laws and regulations regarding workers' compensation in your state. Additionally, seeking legal advice from an experienced attorney can help you navigate the complexities of your case and ensure that your rights are protected.
The sections below will provide you with the information you need about the filing process for a workers’ comp claim in South Carolina.
When Is the Deadline for Workers’ Compensation Claims in South Carolina?
The deadline, more formally referred to as the statute of limitations, for filing a South Carolina workers’ compensation claim is two years. Remember that filing a workers’ comp claim is not technically equivalent to raising a lawsuit against your employer. You are only asserting your rights as an employee.
Another aspect that you need to note is that reporting your injury to your employer and filing the claim have two different deadlines, with the first one being 90 days.
Step-By-Step Guide on Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in South Carolina
Your workers’ comp insurance allows you to obtain compensation to help you recover from your physical injuries, lost wages, medical expenses, and other costs you had to cover during your treatment. But in case there is no insurance, or if the insurance is inadequate, a workers’ comp claim will come in handy.
Filing a workers’ compensation claim might sound easy since people commonly refer to it as “just a couple of forms.” Indeed, you will need to sign a few forms, but it’s important that you know the step-by-step process of filing your claim beyond submitting the necessary paperwork.
1. Report Your Injury
The first important step before filing a South Carolina workers’ comp claim is to report your work-related injury to your employer. If not immediately, you are given 90 days by the South Carolina WCC to make your injuries known. Failing to do so will result in you losing your right to receive the workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to.
2. Get Medical Treatment
This can either be the first or second step of the filing process, whichever is applicable to your situation. If your injury is fatal and you need medical attention, you can get treated right away and then inform your employer right after. Your workers’ comp benefits will cover the medical expenses that arise during your treatment, such as surgery, medication, hospitalization, rehabilitation, and even assistive devices.
You will also be reimbursed for other expenses that you paid during the treatment, like transportation costs. Keep in mind that you will only receive payment if your employer or workers’ compensation insurer chooses the provider who treats you.
3. File Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
This step is taken if your employer did not report your injury to the commission after you reported it to them. You can also consider this step if you think that you did not receive the benefits that you deserved or if your insurer has denied your claim.
To begin a workers’ compensation claim, submit an Employee’s Notice of Claim and/or Request of Hearing, known as Form 50, if the case involves a work-related injury. On the other hand, if the worker passes away due to job-related accidents, the family member can use Form 52 (Employee’s Notice of Claim and/or Request for Hearing, Death Case). There are no filing fees for these forms, except when you want to request a hearing, which costs up to $50.
4. Wait for Your Claim’s Approval or Denial
Once you submit your claim, you will now have to wait for your insurer’s decision on whether they accept or deny your case. In the event that they approve the claim, you will then be able to receive a compensation offer. It is up to you whether you will accept their initial offer or negotiate a larger amount. You can also hire an attorney to make sure you’re getting the compensation you deserve.
However, if they deny your claim, you have the option to appeal your case.
What Should One Do If a Workers’ Compensation Claim in South Carolina Has Been Denied?
If your insurer has denied your South Carolina workers’ comp claim, you have the right to appeal your case. This should be done within 14 days after you receive the decision. You first need to request a hearing, which is a formal process designed to help resolve the disputes between you and your employer. You have two options to apply for a hearing in South Carolina:
Obtain the request form on the official website of South Carolina WCC.
Contact the commissioner’s judicial department and ask for a copy of the form by dialing 803-737-1208.
Take note that when you appeal your case, you technically do not need to end up in court. This is because the South Carolina WCC will usually be the one to provide a final decision on your claim. Keep in mind, though, that you can still hire an attorney since you may require their assistance, especially if you need to appeal to the Commission.
Should you fail to settle your case through the appeal, you can then file with the Court of Appeals.
However, before you appeal your case, you first need to understand the possible reasons why your claim has been denied. These reasons can be:
Failing to follow the rules or showing improper behavior.
Missing the deadlines.
Misclassifying your employment status.
Having sustained an injury prior to beginning work at your current position.
Having a non-work-related injury.
Lacking proof of your injury.
Legal Resources for Injured Workers in South Carolina
In the Palmetto State, there are legal resources available for everyone to view and use. Some of these resources are designed to help low-income South Carolinians understand their legal rights and have an attorney represent them during litigation. These nonprofit organizations address not only workers’ compensation issues but other legal matters as well. Check out the details about each organization in the sections below.
South Carolina Legal Services
The South Carolina Legal Services is a nonprofit organization established in 2002 that provides free legal help to low-income individuals facing civil cases. It handles matters that involve employment, education, and elder law, in addition to health, finance, and immigration. The firm is able to continue providing its services with the help of grants from the South Carolina Bar Foundation, the federally funded Legal Services Corporation, state court filing fees, and local United Ways.
South Carolinians can find numerous resources on its website, such as self-help forms, newsletters, and brochures, along with the contact information of community organizations focusing on helping low-income individuals.
South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Education Association
The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Education Association conducts programs and seminars designed to educate workers in the state about their rights. The firm has a team of attorneys, adjusters, insurance professionals, medical providers, and paralegals. Its website contains information about various online resources about the governing bodies of South Carolina, along with organizations like Injured Workers’ Advocates.
Injured Workers’ Advocates
As a nonprofit organization, Injured Workers’ Advocates is dedicated to safeguarding and upholding the rights of working individuals in South Carolina who suffered injuries or illnesses in their line of work. It advocates for these employees’ right to education about workers’ compensation insurance and benefits and helps them understand the litigation process of their case.
Together SC is a nonprofit organization serving the residents of South Carolina. It has over 800 members dedicated to participating in community services and advocating for philanthropic projects. The organization aims to provide helpful tools for keeping employees in the area safe and healthy, especially those working in nonprofits. One of its projects is a collaboration with First Sun EAP for its Employee Assistance Program. This program offers referral services to the organization's legal partners for employees facing unfair termination, workplace harassment, and injuries that require workers’ comp claims.
Charleston Legal Access
As South Carolina’s first nonprofit law firm, Charleston Legal Access strives to provide affordable solutions to the residents of the state. Its associates offer free counseling sessions over the phone and one to two hours of in-depth personal consultation at a moderate cost. The firm also offers full legal representation for people with financial issues and bases its fees on the income and household size of its clients.
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