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South Carolina May Leave Worker’s Compensation Behind

July 17, 2015 Workers' Compensation

In an interesting move at the state’s capitol, a bill was introduced to fundamentally alter how worker’s compensation coverage is provided to hard-working South Carolinians.

H.B. 4197, also known as the “South Carolina Employee Injury Benefit Plan Alternative” was introduced earlier this summer.  The bill would allow businesses to opt-out of the current state worker’s compensation system.  Instead, an eligible employer would be allowed to offer its own coverage through a qualified injury plan.

In order to do this, the business would have to be certified by the South Carolina Department of Insurance to provide coverage through a qualifying plan.  This plan is supposed to offer medical benefits comparable to what already exists in South Carolina Worker’s Compensation Law.  It also is supposed to provide for medical, dental, rehabilitation, and other medical benefits, in addition to disability benefits that must be at least 75 percent of the employee’s average wage but not less than $75 per week.  The alternative plans also allow an employer to provide a lump-sum payment to satisfy any claims or settlements. The company cannot charge an employee for being covered under the plan.

This all sounds well and good, but in fact, it is a move that will put workers at risk.  By being allowed to opt-out of mandatory state worker’s compensation coverage, companies will be allowed to write their own rules for workers compensation.  Specifically, it will now be up to the company as to when, why, and how they will compensate an employee.  This means, rather than follow the well-established worker’s compensation procedures already in place, the employer can decide when they pay benefits, how long they will pay, and what injuries qualify as needing worker’s compensation.

This level of choice by the employer creates a built-in conflict of interest.  Under the current system, workers’ interests are protected and guaranteed by the state, but under the new system that is not necessarily the case.  Businesses are not interested in the extra costs of paying out employees who have been hurt on the job.  The business will be less inclined to want to provide for injured employees that are not able to work and contribute to the company’s bottom line.  For example, as the bill is currently drafted, employers will not be required to pay for home care, funeral expenses, disability modifications, or artificial limbs.  These are all critical benefits required to be covered under the current worker’s compensation system.  The new version will also allow employers to determine when they can stop paying for medical expenses; in this case, after three years or $300,000.  Think of the miners and construction workers who are permanently disfigured or suffer serious injuries that require months of hospital care. They will quickly surpass the new system’s 3-year or $300,000 max.

Such a fundamental shift to South Carolina’s established worker’s compensation system will simply result in injured employees being left to suffer.  Fortunately, if you are unable to find satisfaction through the worker’s compensation system, you may have other options.  Please contact an experienced worker’s compensation lawyer who can help you with your claim.

Speak with an Experienced Attorney

The complexities of the worker’s compensation system in South Carolina make it incredibly important that you hire an experienced attorney who can walk you through your claim and help you recover the maximum amount for your injuries. Please contact the attorneys at Wallace Childers PLLC if you need assistance.