What Type of Injuries May Qualify for South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Generally speaking, any injury you suffer while performing your normal work duties may entitle you to workers’ compensation benefits. Some exceptions apply, such as if you were intoxicated when you were hurt and it is proven that your intoxication caused your work accident, if you intentionally hurt yourself or if you are actively engaged in horseplay at the time of the accident.
First Things First : The Work-Related Requirement
Whether you’ve sustained a sudden injury or a cumulative trauma, if you want workers’ compensation benefits, you must prove that the injury or illness was connected to work. According to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act the injury or illness must “arise out of and in the course of employment.” According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an illness or injury is work-related if an event or exposure in the work environment caused or contributed to it.
Repetitive Motion and Overuse Injuries
Repetitive trauma or stress injuries are common and can be incredibly painful and incapacitating. People in a wide range of jobs who perform the same physical tasks over and over can develop repetitive trauma including carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, back pain, and more.
Workers’ compensation typically covers work-related repetitive trauma injuries if the injury meets certain criteria outlined in the SC Workers Compensation Act 42-1-172. The employee must establish by medical evidence that there is a direct causal relationship between the condition under which the work is performed and the injury. This requirement almost always necessitates experts and depositions to establish a repetitive trauma case. A South Carolina attorney can help you navigate the special requirements and considerations in a repetitive trauma claim.
Workers’ compensation generally covers illnesses or diseases that employees develop over time as a result of on-the-job exposure. Work-related illnesses can range from traditional occupational illnesses like black lung disease (from exposure to coal dust) and asbestosis (caused by exposure to asbestos) to AIDS/HIV contracted when a health worker gets a needle stick.
It may be relatively easy to prove that work conditions caused traditional occupational diseases, where the medical link is well established and exposure away from work is rare. Proving the work connection can be more difficult when the illness is considered an “ordinary disease of life”—a condition that many people develop throughout their lives from various causes. That doesn’t mean it’s always impossible to get workers’ comp benefits for heart disease, high blood pressure, lung cancer, or other common illnesses. But employees will need strong medical evidence that workplace exposure caused or contributed to the illness.
Just because you had a pre-existing condition, that doesn’t mean you can’t get workers’ compensation benefits if another work-related injury aggravated that condition. For instance, say you hurt your back while lifting a heavy object at work, but x-rays or scans show that you had arthritis or an old injury in the same part of your spine. The new injury is probably covered by workers’ compensation because it aggravated or exacerbated the pre-existing condition.
When Employees Are Partly at Fault for Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses
South Carolina workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. It doesn’t matter if a worker was careless when they were injured. The employer can not claim that you were not wearing your safety shoes, or that you shouldn’t have been in that part of the plant or that you are in some way at fault, therefore they don’t want to pay your workers’ compensation benefits. There may be exceptions, however, such as self-inflicted injuries or injuries that happen because the worker was drunk or high, were committing a serious crime.
When an Employee Dies Because of Work Injury or Illness
When an employee dies as a result of work injuries or illness, their eligible dependents are generally entitled to collect workers’ compensation death benefits. Usually, those able to collect death benefits are limited to a spouse, children, and other family members who lived with and depended on the employee for financial support. The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission will preform a dependency hearing to determine all dependants able to collect any benefits owned as a result of the work-related death.
Speaking With a Lawyer
The rules for workers’ compensation coverage of injuries and illness can be very complicated. If you have questions about workers’ compensation, please contact Venus Poe today at 864-963-0310 or click here to fill out an online case evaluation form. We have offices in Greenville, South Carolina and Fountain Inn, South Carolina to better serve you. Knowing all of your rights is imperative to make sure you are fully compensated after an accident. There is no obligation or charge for our initial consultation to see if we can help you with your accident case.
The information you obtain in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should not read this article to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken with you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction in which you may have a case.