Before workers' compensation laws were created, when a worker was injured on the job, the worker would have to file a lawsuit against their employer, and they'd have to prove that their employer was negligent somehow.
Understandably, this process was flawed and because injured workers typically lacked the financial means to put up a fight, their employers (who had deeper pockets) would almost inevitably prevail. In effect, families were devastated by the burden of hefty medical bills and a breadwinner who could not provide for their dependents.
Lawmakers across the nation became aware of this ineffective system and set out to set it straight and as a result, workers' compensation laws were born. Today, the vast majority of South Carolina workers are covered by workers' compensation and they no longer have to worry about proving an employer was careless or negligent.
What if a Worker Was at Fault for the Accident?
What if you were injured on the job and the accident was partially, or even entirely your fault? Does that mean that you should pay your own medical bills, return to work before you're fully recovered, and cross your fingers that you have a job to come back to?
We have good news for you – the workers' compensation system is a no-fault system, which means an injured or sickened worker can file a claim and receive benefits regardless if they are at fault for the accident, with a few limited exceptions which we'll explain below.
So, if you fell off a roof because you lost your footing, or if you accidentally electrocuted yourself, or if you failed to use the required safety equipment, or if you got too close to a machine and your sleeve was sucked in – it's OK! Accidents happen all the time, and the workers' compensation laws were designed to take human error into consideration, even if it was an exceptionally foolish mistake.
Exceptions to the Rule
As we mentioned earlier, there are a few limited exceptions. In other words, under certain circumstances a worker's claim can be denied, and these typically include:
- The accident wasn't technically work-related at all
- The worker was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident
- The worker was intentionally and knowingly trying to injure someone else when they got hurt
- The worker was intentionally trying to injure themselves, for example, trying to commit suicide
Unless you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or trying to hurt yourself or someone else at the time of the accident, you should be covered by your employer's workers' compensation insurance.
If you were to blame, please don't let that stop you from filing a workers' compensation claim – you have every right to and thousands of injured workers file claims each year after their own mistakes cause their injuries.