Have you ever wondered what would happen if you were injured and unable to work? For workers who are injured while on the job in South Carolina, your best option is often to file a workers’ compensation claim. Almost all employers in South Carolina are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance so that if an employee is injured while working there is a fund available to pay the injured employee’s medical bills and a portion of their lost wages. But what if your employer isn’t required to carry workers’ compensation insurance? Or what if the workers’ compensation benefits that you are entitled to are not enough to cover your expenses? Before you panic, keep in mind that there are other types of insurance, such as disability insurance and unemployment insurance, that you may be able to rely on if you find yourself in these predicaments.
Who Is Eligible to Receive Workers’ Compensation?
As workers’ compensation is designed to compensate injured employees this is a good place to start if you are injured and are unable to work. But who is covered by workers’ compensation? While Federal employees are covered under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Program, nearly all other employers in the state of South Carolina are required by the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission to carry worker’s compensation insurance. However, some employers are exempt from this requirement. These exceptions include:
- Employers with less than four employees; and
- Employers in certain industries (for example, agriculture and railways).
Even if your employer is required to have workers’ compensation insurance, keep in mind that this form of insurance only covers employees. Therefore, other types of workers, such as independent contractors, are not eligible to receive workers’ compensation under their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. There are several factors that go into determining whether a worker is in fact an employee or an independent contractor, and this distinction can sometimes be tricky to determine. Factors generally indicating that you are an employee include:
- Receiving an hourly or salaried wage;
- Having your schedule determined by the company;
- Having the company monitor what you do;
- Receiving employee benefits; and
- Having a signed employee contract.
However, even if your employer is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance and you are in fact an employee, you still must meet the requirement of having been injured on the job before you are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. In other words, your injury or illness must be job-related. Be careful – your injury does not have to occur at your employer’s place of business, it simply must be related to your work. Therefore, your injury will likely still qualify you for workers’ compensation benefits if you were running a business related errand or attending some business related function off campus.
If I Am Eligible to Receive Workers’ Compensation, Will it Cover All of My Expenses?
Workers’ compensation is designed to compensate injured employees for their medical expenses and a portion of their lost wages. Qualifying employees are entitled to reimbursement for all relevant and necessary medical treatments related to their injury. Nasdaq.com reports that eligible employees injured in South Carolina in 2016 can receive help paying their medical expenses as well as two-thirds of their average weekly wage up to a maximum of $784.03 per week. Once an injured employee is able to return to their old job at the same wage rate that they were previously receiving, they are no longer entitled to receive wage compensation. However, those who experience a ‘total disability’ are allowed to collect workers’ compensation benefits for up to 500 weeks. Additionally, some qualifying injuries result in lifetime disability benefits.
While workers’ compensation payments can be very helpful, they may not be sufficient to cover all of your expenses. Therefore, it is a good idea to consider other types of insurance benefits that you may be entitled to.
Other Insurance Benefits That You May Be Able to Rely On
If your employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance, you are not classified as an employee, your injury is not work-related, or your workers’ compensation benefits are simply not sufficient, consider applying for benefits under other types of insurance such as disability insurance or unemployment insurance.
If you are not eligible for workers’ compensation because your injury is not work-related, you may qualify for benefits under the federal disability insurance program. Disability Insurance is a program that is managed by the Social Security Administration in order to provide a safety net for workers who are disabled for a long period of time. This program is funded by the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), which operates as a tax that is automatically taken out of your paycheck each month. Employees who have paid the FICA tax for a qualifying amount of time are eligible to receive disability insurance. Additionally, if you are not currently injured and are interested in obtaining disability insurance, ask your employer if they offer employer-sponsored disability coverage, or consider purchasing individual disability insurance from a private insurer.
Additionally, if your injury means that you can no longer work you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. The unemployment insurance program operates through the Department of Labor, however, unemployment benefits in South Carolina are disbursed via South Carolina’s Unemployment Office. An article on Nasdaq.com notes that in South Carolina eligible unemployed workers can receive up to $326 per week for a maximum of 20 weeks. If you lost your job through no fault of your own, check with the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce to see if you qualify for unemployment insurance benefits.
What Can We Do To Help?
If you are unable to work and have questions about your rights under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws, contact the Elrod Pope Law Firm today at either our Rock Hill office or our Lake Wylie office. Our experienced Rock Hill workers’ compensation lawyers are happy to meet with you for a free consultation.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.