Can I Sue Workers’ Comp For Negligence?
On-the-job injuries, and illnesses can happen in any occupation. Workers’ compensation benefits in South Carolina are designed to protect you in this situation. They cover your medical expenses, reimburse you for lost wages, and provide additional payments if your injury or illness prevents you from working in the years to come or impacts your ability to perform specific tasks on your job.
Workers’ compensation benefits are available regardless of who was at fault for your injury or illness. In the event your employer was negligent, you may be entitled to file a lawsuit against them instead. Can you sue workers’ compensation for negligence? The short answer is no, but there are situations in which you can take workers’ comp to court.
Filing A Workers’ Compensation Claim Versus A Lawsuit Against Your Employer
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), close to 30,000 workers are injured on the job or suffer occupational illnesses in South Carolina each year. While some job sites are inherently more dangerous than others, injuries and illnesses can happen to anyone. Among the most common causes include overuse, repetitive stress, slips and falls, burns, electrocutions, severe cuts and lacerations, and exposure to hazardous substances.
When these or other situations jeopardize your health, it is important to notify your supervisor and employer immediately and to seek medical attention, regardless of your symptoms. There are two courses of action that can help you avoid paying out-of-pocket for medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs involved:
File a workers’ compensation claim: Workers’ compensation acts as a form of insurance, protecting employees in the event of work-related accidents and injuries, regardless of who was to blame.
File a lawsuit against your employer: If your injuries or an occupational illness occurs as a direct result of negligence on the part of your employer or others involved, you may have the right to file a lawsuit against them, seeking compensation for both current and future losses as well as for the pain and suffering you experienced.
Can I File A Lawsuit Against Workers’ Compensation In South Carolina?
Negligence is a legal term that means taking actions a reasonable person would not take in similar circumstances or failing to take reasonable precautions to prevent personal injuries. Employers can be held liable in a lawsuit for job-related injuries or illnesses caused by their negligence. Unless you were actually injured while visiting a workers’ compensation office, you cannot sue workers’ comp for negligence. However, there are other situations in which you may be entitled to take them to court.
Claims filed through the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) have to be approved by your employer and their insurer before you can begin receiving benefits. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for these claims to be denied. This can happen for a variety of reasons:
Your injuries did not occur on the job;
You did not report the incident immediately when it happened;
You failed to seek medical attention or follow the doctor’s instructions;
You failed to provide the appropriate documentation;
Mistakes were made on the part of your employer or the insurer in filing your claim.
In the event of a denied workers’ compensation claim, you have the right to appeal your employer’s or the insurer's decision. If your appeal is denied, you may then have the right to file a lawsuit against workers’ comp.
Steps In Filing A Lawsuit Against Workers’ Compensation
The first steps once you receive a denied workers’ compensation claim is to notify your employer of your intent to appeal and to request a formal hearing. This hearing will be held before a workers’ compensation commissioner, who will hear testimony from you, your employer, and the insurance company. Based on this testimony and any evidence presented, they will decide whether to approve or deny your claim. If they deny you on an appeal, you then have the right to appeal their decision in a hearing before the full commission.
During this hearing a panel of workers’ comp commissioners will review the following information:
The circumstances surrounding your job-related injuries or illness;
The original claim you filed and the reasons why it was denied;
The evidence presented before the presiding commissioner at your appeal;
The reasoning behind their decision to deny your claim.
After reviewing all the evidence and the decision made by the commissioner who presided over your original appeal, the commission may decide to overrule their decision and award your benefits or uphold the ruling, in which case your benefits will continue to be denied. At this point, you may dispute the ruling by filing a lawsuit against the Workers’ Compensation Commission through the South Carolina Court of Appeals.
Filing A Lawsuit Against The Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC)
The WCC has attorneys experienced in dealing with denied claims on their side, which is why you need an experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney on yours. We suggest getting legal help at the first signs of trouble in filing your claim, as you only have a limited amount of time to file an appeal and to make your case before the Workers’ Compensation Commission. In the event of a lawsuit, steps an attorney can take on your behalf include:
Filing notice of a lawsuit with the WCC;
Filing the appropriate legal documents with the court;
Gathering copies of your claim and any evidence presented in your case;
Gathering additional evidence to use in court;
Appearing before the judge and making effective legal arguments on your behalf;
Taking your case to the South Carolina Supreme Court in the event your workers' comp benefits continue to be denied.
Contact Us Today for Help
You cannot sue workers’ comp for negligence but you can file a lawsuit against them for denying your claim. For professional legal help in getting the benefits, you are entitled to, reach out to The Surasky Law Firm, LLC. Call or contact our Aiken workers compensation attorney online and request a consultation today.