The premise of workers’ compensation laws in South Carolina is simple: If you are injured or become ill while on the job in South Carolina, workers’ compensation benefits are available to you to help you address your medical costs and (in some cases) lost wages. Workers’ compensation benefits are a great safety net for South Carolina workers. Unlike traditional personal injury cases (in which another individual’s fault must be considered and weighed against any fault of the injured person), workers’ compensation benefits are available to an injured worker regardless of fault. Surprisingly, however, workers’ compensation benefits are not, in fact, available in all cases.
Common Situations Not Covered By Workers’ Compensation Laws
Thankfully, the situations and circumstances that are not covered by workers’ compensation laws are few. Stated differently, most cases of workplace injuries or workplace illnesses will fall under the South Carolina workers’ compensation laws. The four major situations that are not covered by workers’ compensation laws include:
- When you are not “on the job.” It may sound obvious, but workers’ compensation benefits are not available for injuries that do not take place while you are at work. Determining whether you are “on the job” or not is not as simple as asking whether you are “on the clock” (although that certainly is a relevant inquiry). For example, consider a delivery driver who takes a detour from his or her route to stop by his child’s school to drop off his or her child’s lunch. Suppose that, while on the way to the school, the driver is struck by a negligent motorist. Is the delivery driver considered to be “on the job” at the time of the accident? The answer is not so clear: While the driver is undoubtedly “on the clock,” the driver is completing a personal errand when the accident occurred. Arguments could be made that suggest the driver is not “on the job.”
- When you deliberately hurt yourself. Workers’ compensation benefits are meant to compensate for workplace accidents that occur as the result of negligence or recklessness. South Carolina workers’ compensation benefits may not be available in situations where the worker deliberately causes injury to him- or herself. For instance, a construction worker who deliberately “slips” off of a ladder in order to obtain benefits may find that such benefits are not available. An office worker who slams her hand in a door or piece of office machinery believing that she can take the equivalent of a “paid vacation” while her hand heals may find her plans are frustrated.
- When you come to work intoxicated or under the influence. Similar to workers who deliberately injure themselves, workers who intentionally come to work under the influence of alcohol or drugs and suffers an injury as a result of their intoxication may find that they are not able to recover workers’ compensation benefits. A warehouse worker who leaves the bar and stumbles over to his or her job where he or she operates a forklift. The worker’s inebriation causes him or her to crash the forklift into a large shelving unit, causing the unit to topple and injure the worker. Even though the worker is clearly “on the job,” the fact that he came to work under the influence of alcohol and this caused the accident occurred may result in the worker’s claim for benefits being denied.
What If My Injury Occurs Under Questionable Circumstances?
If your workplace injury is believed to fit into one of the categories mentioned above, your claim for workers’ compensation benefits may be in jeopardy. Your ability to recover compensation will depend on presenting facts that show you are in fact entitled to compensation and that the facts surrounding your injury do not preclude you from filing a claim. You can help do this by:
- Making a detailed, written report of the accident for your employer as soon as possible after the crash. You must notify your employer of the accident as soon as is practical following the accident. This notification should be in writing and explain the relevant circumstances of the accident. If there are witnesses who observed the crash or could testify as to your state of mind (specifically, witnesses who can attest that you did not appear under the influence of alcohol or drugs while at work), mention their names in your statement.
- Limit detours while you are on the job: If you must make a detour (like the delivery driver who had to drop his child’s lunch off at his or her child’s school), obtain your employer’s permission to make the detour. Making a detour with your employer’s permission puts you in a better position to argue for workers’ compensation benefits. You may wish to ask your employer to clarify whether you need to go “off the clock” to complete the detour (of course, if your employer says you can remain on the clock while you complete this detour, make note of this in your written statement).
- Do not engage in deliberate conduct that can injure you. Of course, you should not injure yourself or arrive to work in a condition that impairs your ability to perform your job in a safe manner. If you are in such a condition (i.e., you are taking a prescription medication that makes you drowsy), make your employer aware of your condition and obtain your employer’s permission to work.
Contact a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
If you suffer a workplace injury, contact the knowledgeable Greenville workers’ compensation attorneys at the law firm of David R. Price, Jr., P.A. By retaining our firm soon after your workplace injury, we can help you prepare and submit your claim for benefits quickly (meaning you are more likely to obtain benefits in a timely manner). We can also assist you in appealing your claim if it is denied for one of the reasons mentioned above. Contact our office by phone or complete our online form to discuss your workplace injury today.