Most South Carolina businesses with employees are required to pay for workers' compensation insurance (WC or workers' comp insurance). The insurance provides compensation to employees who suffer work-related injuries. Here are some basic facts that you need to know about workers' comp insurance in South Carolina as a business owner and employer.
If your South Carolina business regularly employs four or more workers, you're generally required to carry workers' compensation insurance. Certain exceptions apply for agricultural employees, railroad employees, and employers with very low annual payroll. There is also an exception for unpaid volunteers. In addition, business owners, such as partners in partnerships and sole proprietors, are not required to be covered by workers' compensation insurance.
The South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission (WCC) is the primary state agency that handles workers' comp claims. Most of the law for WC insurance is contained in South Carolina's Workers' Compensation Law (Title 42 of the South Carolina Code of Laws). In addition to the Law, there are also administrative rules that cover workers' compensation in South Carolina (Chapter 67 of the state's Code of Regulations).
In South Carolina, the largest provider of workers' compensation insurance is the state, through the South Carolina State Accident Fund. WC insurance also is available through private insurance companies. And, finally, there is an option to self-insure — but this may not be advisable for smaller businesses, in part because it requires that a lot of money be set aside to cover potential claims.
Your first responsibility is to provide medical treatment to the employee. An employee who refuses this initial treatment may lose his or her rights to workers' compensation benefits. In addition, an employee who does not report an injury within 90 days may lose his or her WC benefits.
In some cases — notably if there is a disagreement regarding whether an injury occurred — the employee will file a Form 50, Employee's Notice of Claim and/or Request for Hearing. (In the case of an employee death, an employee representative may file a Form 52, Employee's Notice of Claim and/or Request for Hearing, Death Case.) This will officially give you notice of the claim. However, regardless of whether the employee files Form 50, you must report the injury to your insurance carrier within ten days of receiving notice of the injury. Your insurer will then report the injury to the WCC. Use Form 12-A, First Report of Injury or Illness. Minor injuries do not have to be reported.
Beyond these initial steps, there are subsequent steps to the WC claims process, not covered here.
If you think your employee's workers' comp claim is partly or totally invalid, you can file Form 51, Employer's Answer to Request for Hearing, in response to the employee's filing Form 50. You generally must file the form within 30 days of receiving Form 50 from your employee.
After you file Form 51 to contest a claim, there is a process to decide if the claim is valid. In South Carolina, that process initially is handled by the WCC. There is an initial informal conference which may be followed a formal hearing. Beyond that, there are various levels of appeals, including a hearing before all of the WCC commissioners, and taking the case to a state appellate court.
If you don't carry workers' compensation insurance when you are required to do so, the state can take your business assets to cover the costs of a claim. Even if you declare bankruptcy, the state still will have a lien on your assets. Check Section 42-7-200 of South Carolina's Workers' Compensation Law for more details.
There are many other workers' compensation requirements for South Carolina employers that are not covered here, such as putting up posters about workers' compensation coverage where employees can see them. For more information, see the Nolo website section on workers' compensation and the South Carolina Workers' Compensation Commission website which contains many useful resources.