The Difference Between Workers’ Compensation and a Personal Injury Claim in South Carolina
Every year in South Carolina, there are dozens of workers who are injured on the job. While many of these injuries are incurred amongst blue-collar laborers, like construction workers, healthcare workers, manufacturers, and even office workers are all at risk of a workplace injury.
When an on-the-job injury occurs, there are typically two routes for recovering compensation, depending upon the circumstances of the case: a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury claim. The following discusses the differences of each claim type.
Workers’ Compensation Claims in South Carolina
The vast majority of employers in the state of South Carolina are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. The workers’ compensation insurance system is a no fault system that pays for a worker’s medical bills, and a portion of their lost wages, if they are injured on the job. In exchange for no fault coverage – meaning that an injured worker does not have to prove fault in order to recover benefits – the worker waives their right to file a lawsuit against their employer. As such, the employer has immunity, or liability protection.
When a worker is injured on the job in South Carolina and they file a workers’ compensation claim, they are entitled to benefits for the full cost of their necessary and reasonable medical expenses related to the injury, as well as wage replacement at a rate of 66 ⅔ percent of their average weekly wage (although this amount cannot exceed $784.03 for the year 2016). They can also receive gas mileage reimbursement for costs of traveling to and from a doctor’s office, at a rate of 54 cents per mile. There is a seven-day waiting period before benefits will be paid.
You must report the injury to your employer within 90 days.
Personal Injury Claims in South Carolina
Personal injury claims are very different from workers’ compensation claims, starting with the fact that if a worker is covered under workers’ compensation insurance and they suffer an on-the-job injury, they are barred from filing a personal injury claim against their employer. However, they do retain the right to file a personal injury claim against a separate third party whose negligence caused their injury (i.e. the manufacturer of a dangerous and defective piece of equipment).
In a personal injury claim, the burden of proof falls on the claimant’s shoulders – the injured worker. The worker must prove that the party against whom the claim has been filed committed an act of negligence, that the negligence was the direct cause of the worker’s accident and injuries, and that the worker suffered damages as a result.
While the worker is tasked with proving fault in a personal injury claim, they also have the right to recover a greater scope of damages than are available in a workers’ compensation claim. In addition to compensation for medical expenses and lost wages (which are available at 100 percent of the workers’ lost wages, not 66 ⅔ percent), a worker can also recover compensation for the value of their pain and suffering. You have three years from the date of injury to file your claim.
Can I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim and a Third Party Liability Claim?
If you are not an employee, and are instead classified as an independent contractor, and therefore are not covered by workers’ compensation insurance, then you can file a lawsuit against the party offering you work. If you are an employee, you cannot file a lawsuit against your employer, but may be able to file both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury claim against a third party.
If you believe that a third party was responsible for your accident and injuries, you should contact an attorney to discuss your claim as soon as possible. There are time limits on filing both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury claim which must be adhered to. The sooner you contact an attorney, the better your chances are of recovering your full compensation amount.
Contact Our Law Offices Today
If you have been injured at work and have questions about what comes next, you should schedule a consultation with our talented workplace injury attorneys at the Joye Law Firm today. We can help you to understand the different types of claims, as well as guide you through which claim type is best for you to pursue. We will also gather evidence on your behalf, prove that you have suffered damages and therefore deserve to be compensated, and negotiate with an insurance company to get you your full settlement amount.
Please contact us online or by phone today to schedule your free case consultation. We will work hard for you.