What are the SC workers’ compensation laws?
Although workers’ compensation laws are similar, there are differences from state to state. Below, we will review the basics of SC’s workers’ compensation laws and where to find them, including:
- The definition of an employee,
- The definitions of injury and disability,
- How much workers’ compensation pays,
- How long the benefits last,
- Workers’ compensation death benefits, and
- Whether you can be fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
SC Workers’ Compensation Laws: Definitions
Workers’ compensation laws in SC contain some important definitions, including who is a covered employee, what constitutes an injury, and what constitutes a disability.
What is an Employee?
Employees are entitled to workers’ compensation, while independent contractors are not. Because insurance companies will try to deny workers’ compensation claims by saying you were an independent contractor rather than an employee, it’s an important distinction under SC workers’ compensation laws.
SC Code Section 42-1-130 defines “employee” as:
…every person engaged in an employment under any appointment, contract of hire, or apprenticeship, expressed or implied, oral or written, including aliens and also including minors, whether lawfully or unlawfully employed, but excludes a person whose employment is both casual and not in the course of the trade, business, profession, or occupation of his employer…
“Employee” also includes a “sole proprietor or partner of a business whose employees are eligible for benefits under this title” if they elect to be included as employees under the policy, are actively engaged in the business operations, and notify the insurer of their election to be included.
What is an Injury?
Section 42-1-160 defines “injury” or “personal injury” as “injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment.”
“Accident,” as defined in SC workers’ compensation laws, doesn’t necessarily mean a single, sudden event.
It could also refer to “a series of events in employment, of a similar or like nature, occurring regularly, continuously, or at frequent intervals,” and an injury or disease caused by a series of events is compensable if it results in a “repetitive trauma injury pursuant to Section 42-1-172 or an occupational disease pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 11.”
What is a Disability?
“Disability” is defined by Section 42-1-120 as “incapacity because of injury to earn the wages which the employee was receiving at the time of injury in the same or any other employment.”
SC Workers’ Compensation Laws: Compensation
Workers’ compensation laws in SC also specify how much an injured employee will be paid for an injury, disability, or death and how long their benefits will last.
How Much Does Workers’ Compensation Pay?
How much workers’ compensation will pay depends on:
- The type of injury,
- Your average weekly wage,
- Your medical impairment rating, and
- Your disability rating.
Workers’ compensation should pay your medical expenses, future medical expenses, and lost wages (a percentage of your average weekly wage) for any period of disability.
Section 42-1-40 defines “average weekly wage” as “the earnings of the injured employee in the employment in which he was working at the time of the injury during the period of fifty-two weeks immediately preceding the date of the injury.”
How are wages calculated?
“Average weekly wage” must be calculated by taking the total wages paid for the last four quarters immediately preceding the quarter in which the injury occurred as reported on the Department of Employment and Workforce’s Employer Contribution Reports divided by fifty-two or by the actual number of weeks for which wages were paid, whichever is less. When the employment, prior to the injury, extended over a period of less than fifty-two weeks, the method of dividing the earnings during that period by the number of weeks and parts thereof during which the employee earned wages shall be followed, as long as results fair and just to both parties will be obtained. Where, by reason of a shortness of time during which the employee has been in the employment of his employer or the casual nature or terms of his employment, it is impracticable to compute the average weekly wages as defined in this section, regard is to be had to the average weekly amount which during the fifty-two weeks previous to the injury was being earned by a person of the same grade and character employed in the same class of employment in the same locality or community.
You will not be paid 100% of your lost wages. The compensation rate for total disability, for example, is 66 2/3% of your average weekly wage.
How Long Do Workers’ Compensation Benefits Last?
Workers’ compensation benefits last until you are cleared to return to work or until you reach the maximum benefits payable.
Section 42-9-30 provides a schedule for how long benefits will last based on the type of disability that was suffered. For example:
(1) for the loss of a thumb – sixty-five weeks;
(2) for the loss of a first finger, commonly called the index finger – forty weeks;
(3) for the loss of a second finger – thirty-five weeks;
(4) for the loss of a third finger – twenty-five weeks;
(5) for the loss of a fourth finger, commonly called the little finger – twenty weeks;
(6) the loss of the first phalange of the thumb or any finger is considered to be equal to the loss of one half of such thumb or finger and the compensation must be for one half of the periods of time above specified;
(7) the loss of more than one phalange is considered the loss of the entire finger or thumb; provided, however, that in no case shall the amount received for more than one finger exceed the amount provided in this schedule for the loss of a hand;
(8) for the loss of a great toe – thirty-five weeks;
(9) for the loss of one of the toes other than a great toe – ten weeks;
(10) the loss of the first phalange of any toe is considered to be equal to the loss of one half of such toe and the compensation must be for one half the periods of time above specified;
(11) the loss of more than one phalange is considered as the loss of the entire toe;
(12) for the loss of a hand – eighty-five weeks;
(13) for the loss of an arm – two hundred twenty weeks;
(14) for the loss of a shoulder – three hundred weeks;
(15) for the loss of a foot – one hundred forty weeks;
(16) for the loss of a leg – one hundred ninety-five weeks;
(17) for the loss of a hip – two hundred eighty weeks;
(18) for the loss of an eye – one hundred forty weeks;
(19) for the complete loss of hearing in one ear – eighty weeks; and for the complete loss of hearing in both ears – one hundred sixty-five weeks;
(20) total loss of use of a member or loss of vision of an eye is considered as equivalent to the loss of the member or eye. The compensation for partial loss of or for partial loss of use of a member or for partial loss of vision of an eye is the proportion of the payments provided in this section for total loss as such partial loss bears to total loss;
(21) for the loss of use of the back in cases where the loss of use is forty-nine percent or less – three hundred weeks. In cases where there is fifty percent or more loss of use of the back – five hundred weeks;
(22) for the total or partial loss of, or loss of use of, a member, organ, or part of the body not covered in this section and not covered under Section 42-9-10 or 42-9-20 – five hundred weeks.
(23) serious permanent disfigurement of the face, head, neck, or other area normally exposed in employment – fifty weeks.
For permanent and total disability, benefits could last up to 500 weeks or for life.
What are Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits?
When an employee is killed during the course and scope of their employment, their family is entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits.
Section 42-9-290 provides for weekly payments divided among the deceased employee’s dependents of 66 2/3% of the employee’s average weekly wage for up to 500 weeks and burial expenses of up to $12,000.
Can You be Fired for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
You cannot be fired for filing a workers’ compensation claim in SC.
Section 41-1-80 says that:
No employer may discharge or demote any employee because the employee has instituted or caused to be instituted, in good faith, any proceeding under the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law (Title 42 of the 1976 Code), or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding.
Any employee who was fired or demoted for filing a workers’ compensation claim or testifying in a workers’ compensation proceeding can sue their employer for wrongful termination.
Your Myrtle Beach worker’s compensation lawyer on the Axelrod team will help you to file your claim, determine how long your workers’ compensation benefits may last, and represent you before the workers’ compensation commission for any hearings and appeals.