South Carolina Workers’ Comp for Heavy Equipment Injuries
How to get maximum compensation after a heavy equipment injury at work in Columbia
From construction sites to warehouses to factories, heavy equipment is indispensable in helping efficiently accomplish tasks that would otherwise be labor-intensive and time-consuming. However, despite these unparalleled benefits, this equipment also presents inherent dangers for workers that lead to severe and catastrophic injuries.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2021 alone, there were 30,300 nonfatal work-related injuries and illnesses reported in South Carolina, 19,900 of which were considered severe in nature. The industries with the highest rates of work injuries included trade, transportation, utilities and manufacturing.
Fortunately, most South Carolina workers who are injured on the job are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits for medical expenses and lost wages if they need to take time off of work while they heal from their injuries.
Types of dangerous heavy equipment
Heavy equipment refers to any type of large equipment used in a variety of workplaces, including:
- Back-end loaders
- Cement mixers
- Dump trucks
- Road graders
- Power shovels
Common causes of heavy equipment injuries
Construction accidents frequently involve heavy equipment, but this equipment can lead to accidents anywhere that large or heavy merchandise or supplies are being transported. There are numerous causes of these accidents, including negligent, reckless or careless conduct of workers. Other causes include:
- Poorly maintained or defective construction equipment
- Weak structural foundation for heavy equipment
- Improper equipment being used for the job
- Untrained project workers or supervisors
- Safety protocols violations
Types of injuries caused by heavy equipment accidents
Operating or working around heavy equipment is dangerous. A heavy equipment workplace accident can cause severe injuries that impact the injured worker, their families and other workers at the job site. These injuries are often catastrophic and long-lasting.
Among the more common heavy equipment injuries are:
- Brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Bone fractures
An injured employee can experience severe physical and emotional pain and suffering for many months—if not a lifetime—after a heavy equipment injury. The disabilities can be temporary or permanent, but in most cases, the financial burdens will be immediate and substantial, which is why it’s crucial to understand how to navigate the workers’ compensation process to get the benefits you need and deserve.
What is workers’ compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a statutory no-fault insurance system that compensates an employee for medical treatments and lost wages after an on-the-job injury or illness. Most South Carolina employers with 4 or more employees are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance to cover their employees’ work-related injuries or illnesses.
Eligibility requirements for workers’ compensation
As an employee, you don’t have to prove that your employer was at fault for your injury or illness to get compensation. However, you do have the burden of proving the following 2 elements:
- You’re an employee and not an independent contractor.
- Your injury occurred in the course of performing your assigned job functions.
What workers’ comp benefits are available for injured workers?
There are 3 categories of workers’ compensation benefits. They include the following:
- Medical benefits. These cover all necessary medical expenses and treatments, like doctor appointments, surgery, medications, supplies and rehabilitation.
- Wage loss benefits. These provide a replacement of two-thirds of your average weekly wages during a period of disability.
- Death benefits. These are provided to certain dependents if a worker dies from a work-related injury or illness. They include compensation for funeral expenses and lost income.
What’s the process for filing a workers’ compensation claim in South Carolina?
These are the steps for filing a claim in South Carolina:
- You should seek medical care as soon as possible to establish a connection between your injury and your job.
- Your next step is to file an injury report with your immediate supervisor or another representative of your employer. A written report must be filed within 90 days after the accident for you to be eligible for workers’ comp benefits.
- Your employer is then required to file a claim on your behalf with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission. If they refuse to file your claim, you can do so yourself by submitting Form 50.
- Your employer will usually be covered by an insurance company that will review the claim and render a decision.
- If your claim is denied or you need help filing a claim, you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help you navigate the process and ensure all filing deadlines are met.
Alternative remedies and third-party liability
Workers who accept workers’ compensation benefits are prohibited from suing their employer; however, there might be cases where an injured employee has a personal injury claim against their employer or a claim against third parties.
Other remedies against your employer
Under workers’ compensation law, a claim for benefits is the exclusive remedy for the injured employee. But what if your employer is not insured as legally required? Or what if your employer alleges that you’re not an employee?
In those cases, you might have a case for personal injury damages under state tort law. You must prove that your employer was at fault and that their negligence or willful conduct was the proximate cause of your injuries. But if you win, you can recover damages for pain and suffering and punitive damages. These remedies are not available under workers’ compensation laws.
Often, particularly for heavy equipment injuries, the injury might be caused by the negligence or willful conduct of a third party (someone other than your employer). For example, if the equipment that caused your injury was defective, you might have a cause of action against the equipment manufacturer.
You can file a workers’ compensation claim as well as a lawsuit against the third party. However, you cannot “double-dip.” If you successfully recover damages from the third party, it will reduce your workers’ compensation benefits.
The benefits of working with an experienced attorney
If you suffer a workplace injury that requires extensive time off work or long-term medical care, you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to ensure you get maximum compensation for your claim.
A skilled and experienced workers’ compensation attorney will usually have all of the following:
- A working knowledge of medical aspects of work-related injuries
- Negotiating experience with insurance companies
- Extensive knowledge of the law and litigation skills
They can also advise you of causes of action you might have against third parties.
When to contact a South Carolina work injury attorney
Workers’ compensation claims are complicated and replete with pitfalls, and mistakes made early on in the process often have a big impact on your claim. If you do not comply with the required rules and procedures, most employers will use this failure to deny or reduce your compensation. That’s where an attorney comes in to fight on your behalf and protect your rights.
At Smith, Born, Leventis, Taylor & Vega, we believe that every employee is entitled to a safe work environment. When accidents do occur, you shouldn’t have to worry about how you’re going to afford your medical care or pay your bills. That’s why our Columbia workers’ compensation attorneys offer free, no-obligation consultations to give you the help and information you need to get back on the road to recovery.
Contact us today to see how we can help you get maximum compensation for your claim.