Workers’ compensation insurance pays benefits when a company’s employee has been injured on the job. The rule of thumb is that an individual must be engaged in assigned job duties when injured to be eligible for benefits. As a general rule, accidents that occur while at lunch or on another authorized break do not qualify. But, in fact, the qualification for workers’ compensation is more nuanced than that and there are always exceptions to the rule.
There are situations in which a worker may collect workers’ comp benefits for an injury sustained while on a lunch break such as during a working lunch or while running work-related errands on a lunch hour. Anytime you’ve been injured at work and denied workers’ comp benefits or told you are not eligible, you should consult a knowledgeable South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney about your legal rights. The consultation is free and will help you understand the options available to you.
In South Carolina, our workers’ compensation attorneys at Joye Law Firm can review the circumstances of the injury you suffered on a lunch break and discuss whether you have a right to claim workers’ comp benefits. We will offer guidance based on more than 200+ years of combined experience standing up for injured people in South Carolina. Our aim is to help you recover the maximum workers’ comp benefits available to you under South Carolina law.
Call us at 888-324-3100 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 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 develop illnesses related to their jobs or work environments.
Under South Carolina workers’ compensation law, compensable injuries are those caused by accidents 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 arise out of your course of employment?
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:
- 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 led 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.
Such injuries are typically considered to 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 worker’s compensation unless 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, burned yourself on food heated in a microwave oven available to employees, then you should 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, whether on company premises or at an off-site location. This would include a congratulatory lunch for a team or individual or a luncheon held in conjunction with 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:
- 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. Such discussions with peer co-workers would be less likely to be accepted as arising out of the course of your employment.
- You were reviewing a work-related report at a supervisor’s request while eating lunch and failed to recognize a situation that led to your injury.
- You were completing a work-related errand such as purchasing supplies or making a bank deposit at your employer’s / supervisor’s request on a lunch break.
Contact 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 supervisor or a company 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 while on a lunch break.
You become eligible for workers’ compensation medical benefits in South Carolina as soon as you are injured on the job, and for wage replacement benefits after a workplace injury has kept you out of work for 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.
You should speak to a workers’ compensation attorney if your employer or the insurance administrator disputes your claim. At Joye Law Firm, our attorneys can assess the benefits you should receive. If your employer has not reported your injury or denies your eligibility for workers’ comp – or if you believe you are not receiving all of the benefits you deserve – we can help you file a claim and request a hearing before the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission.
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 and surgery and rehabilitation, if needed.
Workers’ compensation also replaces two-thirds of your lost wages if your injury causes you to miss more than a week of work, and it provides 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 by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. 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 file an appeal and present your case to the SC Workers Compensation Commission.
The attorneys who are part of Joye Law Firm’s workers’ compensation litigation team have nearly 250 years of combined experience.
Contact one of our knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyers by calling 888-324-3100 or set up a free consultation by reaching out to us online today.