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    Work injuries happen every day, but where and when they happen can make all the difference in whether or not you qualify for worker’s comp. In South Carolina, workers’ compensation insurance pays benefits to injured employees when they have been injured on the job. The rule of thumb is that an employee must be engaged in assigned job duties when injured to be eligible for benefits. As such, accidents that occur while at lunch or on another authorized break usually do not qualify. However, qualifying for workers’ compensation benefits is more nuanced than that, and there are always exceptions.

    Situations do exist where a worker may collect workers’ comp benefits for an injury sustained while on a lunch break. Examples include a working lunch or running work-related errands on a lunch hour. Proving that to the insurance company can be difficult, and one wrong move could result in a denied claim. Anytime you’ve been injured at work and told you are not eligible for workers’ comp, you should consult a knowledgeable South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney. The consultation is free and will help you understand your rights and the options available to you.

    Our workers’ compensation attorneys at Joye Law Firm can review the circumstances of the injury. We will help you understand if you have a right to claim workers’ comp benefits after an injury while on a break. Our guidance is based on more than 300 years of combined experience standing up for injured people in South Carolina. We aim to help you recover the maximum workers’ comp benefits available to you under South Carolina law.

    Call us today or fill out this online form to schedule a free legal consultation. Our firm has offices in North Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Columbia, Clinton, and Summerville. We represent work injury victims throughout the state of South Carolina. If you can’t come to us, we’ll come to your home or a location where you feel comfortable.

    What is a ‘Break’ According to SC Workers’ Compensation Law?

    Workers’ compensation is a state-run insurance program that covers employees who suffer injuries on the job or who develop illnesses related to their jobs or work environments.

    Under South Carolina workers’ compensation law, compensable injuries are those caused by accidents arising out of and within the course of employment. Typically, this means the employee was performing job-related duties at the time of the accident. When an injury that occurred during a break or lunchtime is under consideration, the phrase “in the course of employment” is key.

    You may be surprised to learn that there are no federal or state rules that require a South Carolina employer to provide a meal (lunch) period or breaks to their employees. However, if an employer chooses to do so, breaks, usually lasting less than 20 minutes, must be paid. Meal or lunch periods (usually 30 minutes or longer) do not need to be paid, as long as the employee is free to do as they wish during the lunch period.

    If you have suffered an injury while on a lunch break at work, the question for workers’ compensation eligibility becomes: Were you freely doing as you wished on your lunch break, or did your activities that led to the injury arise out of your course of employment?

    Why You Need to Speak to a Lawyer If You Get Injured at Work During Lunch

    There are countless scenarios for how someone might become injured while on a lunch break at work. The specific details of what you were doing when the accident occurred must be analyzed to determine your eligibility for workers’ comp benefits.

    a person getting their hand wrapped

    A supervisor or a human resources representative might reflexively tell you that you don’t qualify for workers’ compensation based on their understanding of the coming and going exception. But as we discussed above, there are some scenarios where you may be entitled to benefits for injuries despite being on a lunch break. That is why it’s important to speak to a lawyer who will look out for your own interests first rather than your employer’s.

    You become eligible for workers’ compensation medical benefits in South Carolina as soon as you are injured on the job. You also become eligible for wage replacement benefits after a workplace injury has kept you out of work for at least seven days. You should notify your employer as soon as possible about any injury that requires medical care, and ask for workers’ compensation benefits. Your employer should file for benefits for you.

    Next, you should speak to a workers’ compensation. At Joye Law Firm, our attorneys can assess the benefits you should receive under the law. If your employer fails to report your injury, denies your eligibility for workers’ comp, or refuses to provide you with all of the benefits you deserve—we can help you.

    Were You Acting in the ‘Course of Employment’ When Injured at Lunch?

    In the course of employment” refers to the time, place, and conditions under which an accident occurred. An accident occurs “in the course of employment” when it occurs:

    construction worker on break

    • While the individual is employed
    • At a place where the employee may reasonably perform their job duties
    • While the employee is fulfilling work duties or is engaged in something incidental to their job duties

    The phrase “arising out of” refers to the origin or cause of the injury. An accident “arises out of” employment when the employees’ job duties lead to the accident. For example, if a construction worker fell from scaffolding, that accident arose out of the job’s requirement to work from that particular scaffolding that day.

    For an injury that occurred during a lunch break, the eligibility for workers’ compensation would depend on where the

    employee was taking the lunch break and what the employee was doing at the time.

    If you left your company’s premises or job site to have lunch at a place of your choosing and did nothing connected to your job while there, it is likely that any injury that occurred would not be covered by workers’ compensation.

    This type of injury would likely fall under the “coming and going” exclusion to workers’ compensation. As a general rule, injuries sustained on the way to and from work usually do not qualify for workers’ compensation. Exceptions to this rule include if the employee was running a job-related errand or was being reimbursed for travel.

    On the other hand, if your accident occurred in a company lunchroom while you were taking part in a working lunch meeting, then you should be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. If you slipped and fell in the company break room, or burned yourself on food heated in a microwave available to employees, then you should also qualify for workers’ compensation.

    Employer-sponsored activities are considered part of the course of employment when organized, encouraged, or supported by the employer for business purposes. This is the case whether you’re on company premises or at an off-site location. Examples include a congratulatory lunch for a team or a luncheon during a presentation of information to employees.

    If you were on a lunch break away from your regular job site but were also performing duties of your job, any accident and injury you suffered should be covered by workers’ compensation.

    Some examples of situations we would argue should be covered would include lunch away from the office/job site at which: Lunch and learn

    • You met with a client or potential client and discussed business.
    • You discussed work activities, your performance, or other aspects of your job with a supervisor while having lunch. Discussions with peer co-workers would be less likely to be accepted as arising out of the course of your employment.
    • You were reviewing work-related matters at a supervisor’s request while eating lunch and a situation led to your injury.
    • You were completing a work-related errand, such as purchasing supplies or making a bank deposit at your employer’s request on a lunch break.

    Documentation and Reporting of Lunch Break Injuries


    While lunch break injuries fall into a gray area, the steps you take immediately following the injury can help protect your rights and support a potential claim later. We recommend doing the following:

    1. Document the Incident and Your Injuries
    If possible, take photos of the injury and the setting in which it happened. Take notes about the incident, including the time, location, and how the injury happened. Obtain the contact information of anyone who witnessed the event. Documenting your injuries and the circumstances surrounding them provides essential evidence for any future workers’ compensation claim.
    2. Report the Injury Immediately
    Even if the injury occurs off your employer’s premises during a lunch break, report the incident to your supervisor or employer as soon as possible. Again, documentation is key in workers’ compensation cases, and an immediate report helps establish the facts surrounding the incident.
    3. Seek Medical Attention
    Your health should be your top priority, so seek medical attention immediately for your injury. Inform the healthcare provider that your injury occurred during work hours or activities related to your job, as this can be crucial information for a workers’ compensation claim. Follow all medical advice and keep records of all visits, treatments, and medical bills.
    4. Keep a Diary of Your Injury and Recovery Process
    Maintain a diary detailing your recovery process, including pain levels, mobility issues, and how the injury impacts your daily life and ability to work. This diary can be an invaluable piece of evidence in demonstrating the extent and impact of your injury.
    5. Consult With a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
    Given the complexities surrounding injuries that occur during lunch breaks, consulting with a workers’ compensation attorney is crucial. An experienced attorney can advise you on the likelihood of your claim's success, assist with filing a claim, and represent you in disputes if your claim in unfairly denied.

    The Importance of Witness Statements

    Witnesses offer a third-party perspective that can corroborate your account of the events leading to your injury. This is especially important in cases that occur during breaks, where there might be a question about whether the injury is truly work-related. For example, a witness might attest to the fact that the injury occurred during a work-related activity, even if it was during a lunch break.

    To effectively gather and present witness evidence, follow these steps:

    • Identify Witnesses: Promptly identify anyone who witnessed the incident or the conditions leading up to it. This could include coworkers, bystanders, or even employees of the establishment where the injury occurred.
    • Collect Statements Quickly: Memories fade over time, so it’s important to collect witness statements as soon as possible after the incident. If statements can’t be obtained immediately, jot down names and contact information for future reference.
    • Encourage Detailed Accounts: When collecting statements, encourage witnesses to provide as much detail as possible about what they saw and heard. Specifics can make a statement more credible and useful.
    • Documentation: Ensure that witness statements are documented in writing (or electronically). If possible, have witnesses sign and date their statements. This formalizes their account and can make the evidence more compelling.
    • Legal Guidance: Consult a legal professional experienced in workers’ compensation claims to ensure witness statements are properly gathered and presented. An attorney can also help assess the relevance and impact of each witness’s account in supporting your claim.

    Navigating Denials of Workers’ Comp Claims

    Even if you seem to have done everything right, your workers’ compensation claim may initially be denied. This can be incredibly disheartening, especially when you’re dealing with the stress of recovery and missed paychecks. However, with the help of the experienced workers’ compensation lawyers at Joye Law Firm, you can file an appeal with the SC Workers’ Compensation Commission.

    First, our attorneys can assist you during an informal conference with your employer and a commission representative. The aim of this informal conference would be to avoid a formal hearing.

    However, if an agreement is not reached at the informal conference, we can help you schedule and prepare for a hearing before a workers’ compensation commissioner.

    Appeals can be further escalated to a three-member panel, the full Workers’ Compensation Commission, and ultimately, the SC Court of Appeals.

    These processes are extremely complicated, entailing strict deadlines and requiring persuasive presentation of evidence. Having a SC workers’ comp lawyer on your side throughout your appeal is crucial to the success of your claim.

    What Benefits Are Available After an Eligible Lunch Break Injury?

    South Carolina law provides injured workers with several types of workers’ compensation benefits. All of your medical bills and treatment costs for work-related injuries should be covered. This extends from initial emergency responder assistance through hospitalization, surgery, and rehabilitation.

    Workers’ compensation also replaces two-thirds of your lost wages if your injury causes you to miss more than a week of work. Depending on your situation, it can provide payments based on short- or long-term full or partial disabilities.

    In cases of permanent disability, a worker may qualify to receive weekly payments for up to 500 weeks (more than 9½ years). For certain types of injuries, including those that are disfiguring or that cause permanent injury, you could receive additional compensation based on the severity of your condition.

    Contact Joye Law Firm About an Injury at Work That Occurred During Lunch

    A South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney at Joye Law Firm can help you determine whether your lunchtime workplace injury should be covered under workers’ compensation. We can work with you to seek the full slate of benefits that South Carolina law says you should have.

    If your workers’ compensation application has already been incorrectly denied, we can help you with the appeals process.

    Joye Law Firm’s attorneys have more than 300 years of combined experience.

    Contact one of our knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyers to set up a free consultation by reaching out to us online or by phone at 888-324-3100 today.

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    Ethan at Joye Law Firm