A Guide to South Carolina Workers’ Comp for Flooring Installers
Learn about your right to workers’ comp benefits if you’re injured as a flooring installer
In the vibrant city of Columbia, South Carolina, flooring installers play a critical role in transforming houses into homes and commercial spaces into welcoming environments. However, this skilled work comes with many unique challenges for workers.
From the intricate precision needed to align tiles just right to the heavy lifting involved in transporting materials, flooring installers are exposed to a multitude of risks on a daily basis. Whether it’s the strain from repetitive motions, the potential for slips and falls, or the risk of being injured by sharp tools and equipment, the hazards are numerous.
The demanding nature of this work makes it essential for these professionals to prioritize their health and safety. Fortunately, in the event of an injury, flooring installers in Columbia may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to help with medical bills and lost wages while they recover.
This article will help you understand if you qualify for benefits (and what to do if you don’t) and explain the necessary steps for filing a workers’ comp claim in South Carolina.
Statistics on flooring installers
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are around 115,000 people working as floor installers throughout the country. This number includes carpet installers, tile and stone setters, floor layers, and floor sanders and finishers.
Statistics on floor installer injuries
Floor installation is tough on the entire body, but it’s one of the biggest occupational hazards for the knees specifically. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, despite making up just 0.06% of the workforce, carpet layers file 6.2% of workers’ compensation claims for knee injuries.
This means that the rate of knee injuries for carpet layers is 108 times greater than for workers in other occupations.
What are the most common injuries for flooring installers?
Knee injuries are obviously one of the most common occupational injuries in this profession because of a worker’s need to constantly kneel on hard surfaces and use tools like knee kickers, both of which put stress on the knees and can lead to chronic knee problems, including bursitis and meniscus tears.
Some other common injuries associated with flooring installation include the following:
- Slips, trips and falls. The work environment for flooring and carpet installers often includes cluttered spaces, uneven surfaces and slippery materials, which increase the risk of falling and sustaining significant injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and broken bones.
- Musculoskeletal disorders. Due to repetitive motions, heavy lifting and awkward postures, these workers often experience strains and sprains, particularly in the back, neck, legs and shoulders.
- Repetitive motion injuries. Because flooring installation requires repetitive motions with tools and materials, repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis and tendonitis are common.
- Cuts and abrasions. Handling tools like knives and scissors, as well as rough materials, can lead to frequent cuts and abrasions.
- Respiratory issues. Exposure to dust, adhesives and toxic chemicals can lead to respiratory problems, including asthma and other chronic conditions.
- Chemical exposure. Contact with harmful adhesives and solvents can lead to skin and eye injuries, as well as more serious health conditions, like certain cancers, if proper protective equipment (PPE) is not used.
- Hearing loss. Chronic exposure to loud machinery and tools without proper hearing protection can lead to hearing loss over time.
Are flooring installers eligible for workers’ comp benefits after a work injury?
Most employers in South Carolina have workers’ compensation insurance. In fact, it’s the law. If a company employs 4 or more people, it’s required to have insurance coverage for employee accidents and injuries on the job.
There can be exceptions, however, for certain types of work. Agricultural employees aren’t usually covered by workers’ comp. Neither are railroad employees.
Another thing to consider is whether you’re classified as an employee or an independent contractor, as independent contractors do not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
How does South Carolina define an independent contractor?
There are no rigidly defined rules for distinguishing employees from independent contractors in South Carolina. It’s determined on a case-by-case basis.
Generally speaking, an independent contractor is defined as being outside of an employer’s direct control. An employer is told what to do and when to do it, and they’re managed during the process. By contrast, an independent contractor is given a task, and they set their own hours, use their own tools, and get the job done without management or supervision.
How you file your taxes can also help you determine if you’re an independent contractor. An employee receives a W2 and is subject to withholding. An independent contractor receives a 1099 and doesn’t have any withholding, instead paying self-employment taxes on their earnings.
What factors are used to determine if a worker is an employee vs independent contractor?
There are 4 factors often used in South Carolina to determine if a worker is an employee or independent contractor. If you’re still unsure about your own employment status, consider the following:
- The right of control. Who decides your hours? Who decides how you should go about completing a specific task? If you set your own hours and determine how a specific task should be completed without supervision, you’re likely an independent contractor.
- The method of payment. How do you get paid? Is it by the hour or by the project? If you get paid by the project, you’re more likely to be an independent contractor.
- The furnishing of equipment. Who supplies the tools needed for your work? If the supplies are provided by your employer, you’re more likely to be an employee.
- The right to fire. Who has the power to fire you, and what happens next? If you’re an employee, an employer has the right to fire you mid-project without any further financial obligations. However, most independent contractors have contracts with employers that require full payment, even if the employer tells the worker to stop work before completion.
You might not be able to figure everything out on your own. You might also run into complications if your employer misclassifies you, either accidentally or in an attempt to avoid paying certain taxes and benefits. If this happens, you’ll need a workers’ compensation attorney to help you sort everything out so you can get the compensation you need after an injury.
What if I believe I’ve been misclassified as an independent contractor?
Sometimes, a floor installer can be wrongly classified as an independent contractor after suffering an on-the-job injury. You’ll need to fight back if this happens to you. Since independent contractors aren’t eligible for workers’ compensation, it means that you’ll miss out on the medical payments, lost wages, and disability benefits to which you’re entitled.
If you’ve been misclassified as an independent contractor during your career as a floor installer, contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. They can take a look at things like your tax status, your employment contract, and the overall terms and conditions of your work. If they determine that you’ve been wrongly denied workers’ compensation benefits, they can help you get reclassified and on your way to receiving benefits.
What legal options do flooring installers have if they’re injured at work as an independent contractor?
If flooring installers are working as independent contractors, their legal options after a work-related injury differ from those of traditional employees. Here are some potential legal options they may have:
- Personal injury lawsuit. Independent contractors who are injured due to the negligence of another party (like a property owner, general contractor, or another subcontractor) might be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against that party. In these cases, it will be necessary to prove that the at-fault party was responsible for causing the independent contractor’s injury.
- Product liability claim. If the injury was caused by defective tools or materials, the installer might have a claim against the manufacturer or distributor of those products.
Workers’ comp as no-fault insurance
Injured workers who are legally classified as employees will be able to collect compensation through a workers’ comp claim, which is generally a much easier process than filing a personal injury or product liability lawsuit.
A workers’ compensation claim is considered “no-fault,” which means that no one has to be considered at fault for your injury, and no one has to take the blame. In fact, you’re likely eligible for benefits even if you caused the accident that led to your injury.
By contrast, a personal injury lawsuit is based on negligence: Someone has to be liable for the accident or injury that occurred.
Common types of workers’ comp benefits
Eligible employees are entitled to the following types of workers’ comp benefits after an on-the-job injury or illness:
- The repayment of medical bills, including doctor’s appointments, surgeries, medical supplies, rehabilitation and medications
- A portion of lost wages for missed work while you recover, which typically amounts to two-thirds of your average weekly wage
- Death benefits for certain dependents, including funeral expenses and income replacement if a worker dies from a work-related injury or illness
How to file a workers’ compensation claim in South Carolina
There are just a few steps to filing for workers’ comp in South Carolina:
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible so your injury can be documented. This makes it easier to tie your injury to a work event.
- Notify your employer of your injury within 90 days.
- Wait for your employer to file a workers’ compensation claim after they receive notification of your injury. If they refuse to do so, you can file one yourself by submitting Form 50 to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission, but it’s highly recommended that you contact a workers’ compensation attorney to help you with the process to avoid any delays or a denied claim.
How to prevent knee injuries
Of course, the best solution for work injuries is to prevent them in the first place, so here are some of our top tips for preventing knee injuries at work:
- Always wear knee pads. Use quality knee pads to cushion and protect your knees when working on hard surfaces.
- Alternate between kneeling and standing. Change positions regularly to avoid prolonged stress on the knees.
- Use proper lifting techniques. Lift heavy materials with your legs, not your back, to reduce strain on the knees.
- Stretch and warm up. Perform regular stretches and warm-up exercises to prepare the knees for physical activity.
- Use ergonomic tools. Choose tools that allow you to work in more comfortable positions and reduce the need to kneel excessively.
- Take breaks. Schedule short, frequent breaks when possible to rest your knees and prevent overexertion.
Contact an experienced Columbia workers’ compensation attorney for help with your claim
If you’ve been injured as a flooring installer in South Carolina, contact the experienced work injury attorneys at Smith, Born, Leventis, Taylor & Vega. We have extensive experience helping both employees and independent contractors get the compensation they need after an injury at work.
We also offer free consultations to give you the information you need to make the best decision for your unique situation. Contact us today to set up an appointment with one of our knowledgeable attorneys.