Claiming Workers’ Comp When You Are a Remote Employee
South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Benefits For Remote Workers
South Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act (“Act”) requires employers with at least four employees to maintain workers’ compensation insurance. The Act allows qualifying employees to secure workers’ compensation benefits for injuries arising out of and in employment.
Of course, COVID-19 has changed how many workplaces operate. While some companies and organizations have asked their workforce to return to the office, others realized the benefits of teleworkers, remote workers, and flex schedules. These changes will inevitably change how the courts handle South Carolina’s workers’ compensation claims.
As a remote worker, you may be wondering if you are allowed to file a workers’ compensation claim. It’s best to seek the advice of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney at the Steinberg Law Firm as soon as you can following a work-related injury.
The Current Work From Home Trend
The Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (“SIEPR”) recently published a study analyzing the working from home (“WFH”) trend. Forty-two percent of U.S. workers worked from home in the study, accounting for more than two-thirds of economic activity. Although the study was taken during the height of the pandemic, it suggests that employers will continue to permit workers to WFH, at least for a portion of their schedules.
Workers’ Compensation Coverage While Working From Home
Working from home has raised questions about employees’ rights and coverage for sustained injuries. Currently, there are certain exceptions to the workers’ compensation law requirement, including:
- Casual employees,
- Employers with an annual payroll of less than $3,000,
- Employers with less than four employees,
- Independent contractors,
- Agricultural employees,
- Railroad company employees,
- Individuals selling agrarian products,
- Licensed real estate agents; and
- Federal employees working in South Carolina.
These exceptions do not include WFH employees. These situations will likely require a fact-specific approach. Currently, South Carolina workers’ compensation insurance covers:
- Medical treatment related to accidents or injuries resulting from an employee’s work,
- Medical treatment of illnesses resulting from working in a hazardous environment,
- Repetitive stress injuries,
- Missed wages if an employee must take leave to treat or heal their injuries,
- Ongoing treatment costs,
- Funeral expenses; and
- Disability benefits.
Establishing an Injury is “Work-Related” in South Carolina
As long as an injury arose from the course of their employment, employees can recover benefits regardless of the location of the incident. “Arising out of” refers to what the employee was doing at the time of the injury. “In the course of” refers to when the accident occurred. A successful South Carolina workers’ compensation case requires the employee to show that they were acting in their employer’s interest at the time of the accident or injury.
Proving that an injury is “work-related” while working from home can be challenging. An attorney can assist claimants in preparing a compelling case that meets the state’s workers’ compensation law requirements. Although WFH has become more popular after the COVID-19 pandemic, injuries to remote workers are not out of the ordinary.
For instance, a 2009 letter from the Director Directorate of Evaluations and Analysis for the United States Department of Labor provided a few examples of WFH workers’ compensation claims.
Possible Covered Scenarios:
- An employee drops a box of work documents and suffers injuries to their foot, which require medical treatment.
- An employee who punctures their fingernail while performing garment work at home requires medical treatment.
- An employee takes fewer breaks and ends up sitting longer than usual, resulting in a back injury.
Possible Not Covered Scenarios:
- While working from home, an employee hears their child crying and runs out to comfort them, trips, and breaks their leg.
Filing a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claim
Remote or WFH employees who suffer injuries while working at home should take steps to preserve their claims. A South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney can assist claimants in making sure they meet the statute’s evidentiary requirements. Employees should:
- Confirm that the accident occurred after receiving permission to work remotely.
- Immediately notify the employer, verbally and in writing, within 90 days of the incident.
- Seek medical help as soon as possible.
Additionally, the state requires claimants to fill out certain forms and meet notice requirements. A workers’ compensation attorney is a critical resource when seeking compensation for a work-related accident.
Have You Been Injured While Working from Home?
If you are part of the WFH movement and suffered injuries while working, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, you should not count on your employer’s compensation insurance carrier to “do the right thing” and approve your claim.
Our South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers have nearly a century of experience handling workers’ compensation claims at the Steinberg Law Firm. The firm’s founder, Irving Steinberg, helped get the first workers’ compensation laws passed in South Carolina.