South Carolina Work-Related Car Accidents
Learn about your options for recovering compensation after an accident while driving for work
South Carolina employees who spend a significant amount of time on the road as part of their job face a unique set of challenges and risks that increase the likelihood of work-related injuries.
Whether it’s a delivery driver navigating through heavy traffic or a utility worker moving from one site to another, these individuals must contend with hazards like road conditions, inclement weather, and other drivers who may be reckless or impaired.
In the unfortunate event that a vehicle accident at work leads to serious injuries, workers’ compensation can provide much-needed financial assistance for medical bills, lost wages and rehabilitation costs, so it’s crucial for workers to understand their rights.
If you’ve been seriously injured in a work-related car accident in South Carolina, the knowledgeable work injury attorneys at Smith, Born, Leventis, Taylor & Vega can explain your legal options and fight on your behalf to recover maximum compensation.
Learn how we can help by scheduling a free consultation.
South Carolina car accident statistics
According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS), there were 1,066 traffic fatalities in 2020, an increase of almost 6% from 2019. Despite this rise in deaths, injuries from car accidents decreased almost 18% in 2020 to 47,985. This is equivalent to 1 injury approximately every 11 minutes.
Common causes of work-related car accidents
Work-related car accidents can happen for a variety of reasons, and understanding these common causes can help both employers and employees take preventive measures. Here are some of the most common causes of work-related car accidents:
- Distracted driving. Texting, talking on the phone or using a GPS while driving can take your eyes and mind off the road, making it one of the leading causes of work-related car accidents.
- Speeding. Exceeding the speed limit or driving too fast for road conditions is a common cause of accidents, including those that occur during work.
- Reckless driving. Aggressive behaviors such as tailgating, changing lanes without signaling, and ignoring traffic signs can result in accidents.
- Failure to obey traffic signs. Ignoring stop signs, red lights and other traffic signals can lead to serious accidents, especially at intersections.
- Fatigue. Long hours on the job can lead to fatigue and decreased alertness, significantly increasing the risk of an accident, especially for truck drivers or delivery drivers for Amazon and UPS who cover large territories.
- Impaired driving. Even when workers are sober, other drivers operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs account for a number of work-related accidents every year.
- Heavy traffic. Congested roadways can increase the likelihood of fender-benders and other types of accidents, particularly for those who are driving for work during peak hours.
- Weather conditions. Rain, snow, fog and icy conditions can make driving more hazardous, especially for workers who may not be accustomed to driving in these conditions.
- Vehicle defects. Mechanical failures or defects can lead to accidents, making regular vehicle maintenance essential for companies that rely on transportation for their business.
- Inadequate training or inexperience. Some jobs require specialized driving skills. Lack of proper training or lack of experience can put these drivers at a higher risk for accidents.
Understanding these common causes can go a long way in implementing effective safety measures, such as driver training programs, vehicle maintenance checks, and policies around mobile device usage while driving, to minimize the risks for workers who drive as part of their jobs.
Common car accident injuries for workers
Car accidents can result in a range of injuries for workers, some minor and others severe or even life-threatening. Here are some of the most common injuries sustained in vehicle accidents:
- Whiplash. This is a neck injury caused by a sudden back-and-forth movement of the head, often seen in rear-end collisions.
- Brain injuries. High-impact collisions can result in brain bleeds, concussions and other traumatic brain injuries.
- Spinal cord injuries. Serious accidents can lead to partial or complete paralysis.
- Internal injuries. Impact can damage internal organs like the lungs, liver or kidneys.
- Broken bones. Arms, legs, ribs and other bones can easily break in a car accident.
- Dislocations. Joints such as shoulders, knees, and hips can be dislocated upon impact.
- Cuts, scrapes and lacerations. Flying debris, broken glass and metal can cause various cuts and scrapes. Deep cuts can result in significant blood loss and may require stitches or surgical intervention.
- Burns. Contact with hot surfaces, steam or chemicals can result in burns.
- Contusions and bruises. These are common and can occur throughout the body due to impact with car parts, seat belts or airbags.
- Dental and facial injuries. Accidents can result in chipped, cracked or knocked-out teeth and even severe facial disfigurement.
- Emotional trauma. Psychological effects like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be as debilitating as physical injuries.
If you’re involved in a car accident, especially while working, it’s essential to seek immediate medical attention, even if you think your injuries are minor. Some injuries may not be apparent immediately but could have serious long-term effects if left untreated.
Does workers’ comp cover injuries from vehicle accidents while working?
Yes, if you’re an eligible employee, workers’ compensation does often cover vehicle accidents that occur while you’re performing job-related tasks. To be eligible for workers’ comp benefits, you must have been engaged in an activity that benefits your employer and was within the scope of your employment when the accident occurred.
This means that accidents that happen while commuting to or from work are typically not covered by workers’ compensation unless the employee is in a company vehicle, is running errands for the employer, or the commute itself is part of the job (such as a traveling salesperson).
Under South Carolina workers’ compensation law, it doesn’t matter who was at fault for the accident. In most instances, employees who are injured while driving for work are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits even if they were partially or fully at fault.
What is the “coming and going rule” for workers’ comp in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, the “coming and going rule” is a legal principle that generally states workers’ compensation benefits do not cover injuries that occur while an employee is commuting to or from work. The idea is that commuting is not considered to be a part of the employee’s work duties, so any accidents that occur during this time are not the responsibility of the employer or covered by workers’ compensation.
However, there are some exceptions. For instance, if an employee is running a personal errand that also has a work-related benefit, then an injury sustained during that trip may be covered.
If you’re unsure if your accident qualifies for workers’ comp benefits under South Carolina’s “coming and going rule,” be sure to consult with a qualified work injury attorney who can explain your rights.
What workers’ comp benefits am I entitled to after a work-related car accident?
If you’re involved in a work-related car accident, here are some general types of benefits that may be available to you:
- Medical expenses. Workers’ compensation typically covers all medical treatment related to the injuries sustained in a work-related car accident. This includes, but is not limited to, hospital bills, medication and ongoing treatment like physical therapy.
- Lost wages. If you are unable to work while recovering from your injuries, workers’ comp usually provides compensation for lost wages. The amount is typically two-thirds of your average weekly wage.
- Vocational rehabilitation. If the injuries you sustained prevent you from returning to your previous line of work, workers’ comp may cover the costs of retraining or skill development.
- Death benefits. In tragic cases where a work-related car accident results in death, the employee’s dependents may be eligible for death benefits, which could include compensation for funeral expenses and a portion of the deceased employee’s salary.
Even small mistakes can result in a denied claim. Learn what steps you need to take to get workers’ comp benefits after an injury at work.
Is my employer liable if I cause a car accident while working?
If you were in an accident while driving for work and the accident was your fault, you may be wondering whose insurance is responsible for paying for the other driver’s damages—yours or your employer’s.
In most cases, as long as you were driving a company vehicle as part of your work duties at the time of the accident, the concept of “respondeat superior” comes into play. Respondeat superior is a legal doctrine that holds employers liable for the actions of their employees when those actions occur within the scope of employment.
In the context of a car accident, this means that your employer is typically considered the primary party responsible for the accident and may be held responsible for damages, injuries or other liabilities that arise from the accident as long as you were performing work-related tasks at the time.
Can my employer fire me if I get into a car accident at work?
In South Carolina, like many other states, employment is generally “at-will,” meaning either the employer or employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time for any reason, as long as it’s not illegal. This means that your employer can legally fire you for causing an accident while driving for work.
However, the circumstances surrounding a work-related car accident could influence whether or not you might be fired for causing it. For example, a minor accident might result in a warning, whereas a major accident causing significant damage or injury might result in termination.
Additionally, if you have a history of accidents or disciplinary issues, your employer might be more inclined to terminate your employment compared to if this is your first incident.
Am I entitled to compensation for pain and suffering after a work-related car accident?
In the context of a work-related car accident, workers’ compensation typically covers medical expenses and lost wages but does not provide compensation for pain and suffering. Workers’ comp is designed to cover the basic economic (financial) losses you’ve suffered due to an injury while working, but it’s generally limited to those economic damages.
However, if you believe that the other driver involved in the accident was at fault, you might have the option to recover pain and suffering as well as other non-economic damages through a personal injury lawsuit. To successfully recover these damages, you would need to prove that the other driver was negligent and that their negligence directly resulted in your injuries.
Because compensation and liability in work-related car accidents can be complicated, it’s crucial to consult an experienced work injury attorney for advice tailored to your specific circumstances.
Injured in a work-related car accident? Contact our experienced Columbia work injury attorneys for help.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicle accident at work, you need the help of a law firm with experience in both work-related and personal injury car accident claims. At Smith, Born, Leventis, Taylor & Vega, our seasoned work injury attorneys are dedicated to fighting for the benefits and compensation you deserve.
With a strong track record in both workers’ comp and personal injury law, we offer comprehensive legal support tailored to your unique situation. Don’t navigate these complex legal waters alone. Contact Smith, Born, Leventis, Taylor & Vega today for a free consultation and take the first step toward securing your financial future and well-being.
South Carolina Traffic Collision Fact Book 2020 Edition. (n.d.). https://scdps.sc.gov/sites/scdps/files/Documents/ohsjp/fact%20book/2020%20Factbook%20Final.pdf