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Employee Rights to Subrogation Claims Against Third Parties in South Carolina

April 24, 2014 Workers' Compensation

The Workers’ Compensation system is designed to make sure injured workers receive support when they are unable to work due to injury.  The money that is received is usually a third less than your average weekly wage and is capped at a specific amount. However, at times there is a way to pursue additional support owed to you via “subrogation rights.”

Understanding Subrogation Rights

Subrogation rights are available to a worker who wants to bring a suit against a third-party.  As an employee in the State of South Carolina, you are typically unable to sue your employer for a work injury, which is one of the reasons Workers’ Compensation exists.  However, when some other person or entity is responsible for the injury then additional options may be available.  A better way to understand this subrogation process is with an illustration:

Example:  Bob, a married man with four children, is a window washer who works in downtown Columbia cleaning the windows on office buildings Monday to Friday. Bob regularly uses scaffolding to access the windows on higher buildings.  One day, Bob reaches for his water bucket and just as he shifts to the side of the scaffold where his water bucket is, the bolts on the scaffold becomes loose, the scaffold collapses, and Bob falls down 3 stories and breaks his leg.

Workers’ Compensation in South Carolina will cover 66.6% of his average weekly wage while he is unable to work.  But what about the company that negligently constructed the scaffold?

Subrogation rights may be available to help. With his statutory subrogation rights in South Carolina, Bob is able to sue the scaffolding company whose negligence caused his fall and subsequent injury, even though he is unable to sue his employer.

A Complex Process

These cases typically involve complex legal issues.  The rights to a suit against a third-party by the injured employee or, in the result of his or her death, the dependents of the deceased, are guaranteed statutorily.  The rights of an employee for a subrogation suit can be found in South Carolina statute §42-1-560. Importantly, there are strict time limits; the employee must not bring their claim later than one year after the carrier employer accepts liability for the injury.