Construction is one of the most dangerous jobs in America. The National Security Council (NSC) reports that from 2013 to 2020, the construction industry had the highest number of on-the-job deaths. The same report ranked the construction industry as the eighth most dangerous industry for non-fatal accidents and industries for 2020.
Unfortunately, construction injuries are often serious and may leave you out of work for weeks or months, to say nothing of the medical bills. You shouldn’t have to struggle financially simply because you did your job. At Auger & Auger, we’re dedicated to helping people injured in construction work find all possible options for seeking compensation. The workers’ compensation system is complex, and some workers may have difficulty accessing their benefits. In addition to workers’ compensation, there are some situations where the worker may have a claim against a third party. If you or a loved one have been hurt in a construction accident, please contact us for a free consultation to learn more about how to move forward.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system for handling claims when a worker is injured on the job. Under South Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act, anyone who is hurt at work has a right to compensation for medical expenses, lost time at work, and benefits for permanent disability. There are several benefits to using the workers’ compensation system:
While workers’ compensation is a streamlined system for providing financial support to injured workers, it does not cover every workplace injury situation. Here are some examples of circumstances where your injuries may not be covered and what to do in these cases:
Most employers with four or more employees must provide workers’ compensation insurance. Usually, they do this through an insurance company that handles workers’ comp claims, but a few employers may self-insure or maintain their own fund for workers’ comp claims.
However, independent contractors are not employees, and the Center for Construction Research and Training reports that about 23 percent of construction workers are independent contractors. Because independent contractors exist outside of the workers’ comp system, they can file a personal injury lawsuit against the business they performed work for if the business was negligent in some way that led to the injuries.
But a lawsuit may not be your only option as a contractor. If you were hurt on the job without being a regular employee, we recommend speaking with an attorney before taking your next steps. The reason is that you may have been incorrectly classified as an independent contractor. Many companies make this mistake, and if you should have been categorized as an employee, you are entitled to workers’ compensation and other back benefits (like health insurance, retirement funds, etc.).
Your lawyer may ask you questions to determine if there is evidence you are actually an employee and not a contractor. Here are some of the facts that will be considered if you file a claim against your employer for misclassification:
The IRS considers all of these factors if a worker raises a concern about whether they are a contractor or an employee. However, they also consider the “big picture” when making a decision. Even if one answer indicates the worker behaves more like an employee than a contractor, they may find this is not the case overall, and vice versa. For the purposes of a workers’ compensation concern, a judge will have to decide if the worker is an employee or an independent contractor. If your answers mostly indicate that you might be an employee, your lawyer will discuss with you the possibility of legally establishing your status so you can seek workers’ compensation.
Aside from medical expenses, workers’ compensation will pay two-thirds of your usual salary or average weekly pay, but this amount is capped at the average weekly wage in the state for the previous fiscal year. The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) maintains a table showing the current maximum rate of weekly compensation. At the time of this writing, the maximum weekly compensation amount is $963.37.
If your injuries result in a permanent disability that prevents you from working, you may become eligible for permanent total disability (PTD) or permanent partial disability (PPD). This is determined once your doctor says you’ve achieved Maximum Medical Improvement, or MMI. Typically this occurs after your doctors have exhausted all surgeries and treatment options for your condition and, in some cases, after you’ve spent a certain amount of time doing physical therapy.
After your doctor provides paperwork stating that you’ve reached MMI, your lawyer can help you file for permanent total disability or permanent partial disability. Permanent total disability is usually awarded in the following situations:
PTD benefits are paid at the same rate as standard lost earning rates and are capped at 500 weeks, but in some situations of advanced disability, they may continue for life. These include when the worker becomes a paraplegic or quadriplegic or suffers certain physical brain injuries.
Permanent partial disability is decided using a concept called scheduled loss and is also paid at the standard lost earnings rate. If you have lost the use of a body part, South Carolina provides a schedule of how many weeks you will receive benefits based on the percentage of use lost. If your injury isn’t listed on the schedule, you will receive a “whole person impairment rating” or percentage. This percentage is taken from the whole of 500 weeks, so if your rating was 20 percent, you’d receive benefits for 100 weeks.
While the workers’ compensation system is sometimes swift, there are also situations where it may move slowly or require multiple appeals. Although the insurance company that handles your company’s workers’ comp claims can’t refuse your claim because the accident was your fault, there are a few reasons they’re allowed to deny it:
In most situations, you will not be able to sue your employer because state law directs you to use the workers’ compensation system. But if you were harmed by the negligence of a third party – such as someone from a different company or the maker of a defective piece of equipment – you are free to pursue a claim against that third party. If you’re unsure how your accident happened, your attorney will help you determine if anyone else might be liable.
The attorneys at Auger & Auger have nearly 50 years of combined legal construction injury experience. When you’ve been injured on the job site, you can rest assured we’ll fight for your right to compensation. We will work tirelessly to recover your damages under state law. You have rights, and our zero-fee guarantee means that you don’t pay unless we win your case.
Call (803) 470-5298 today for your free consultation, with no fees due until recovery!