In April of this year, Governor McMaster issued an executive order requiring most businesses close and ordering residents stay at home to reduce the rate at which COVID-19 spreads. In the months since then, South Carolinians have seen many of these restrictions ease up, as businesses have been allowed to reopen under the Governor’s AccelerateSC reopening plan.
As businesses reopened, however, the rate of South Carolina COVID-19 infections has drastically increased. Despite the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases, South Carolina continues to allow more and more businesses to open their doors to the public. As a result, many employees – comfortable or not – are being called back into work. Necessarily, this will result in many workers being exposed to COVID-19 and, in turn, a greater burden placed on the shoulders of South Carolina medical workers.
At the Steinberg Law Firm, LLP, we represent healthcare workers and other essential employees in workers’ compensation claims to help them recover the costs associated with their illness. Our South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers have over 170 years of combined legal experience handling workers’ compensation claims, and possess the knowledge and professionalism to handle your case from beginning to end with the utmost care and consideration.
Total COVID-19 cases in South Carolina – 137,240
Total COVID-19 deaths in South Carolina – 3,188
Total COVID-19 tests administered in South Carolina – 1,218,911
South Carolina Counties with the most COVID-19 cases:
- Charleston County – 15,214 cases
- Greenville County – 13,650 cases
- Richland County – 13,675 cases
- Horry County – 9,845 cases
- Lexington County – 6,495 cases
Determining the exact number of healthcare workers who have contracted COVID-19 is difficult. Initially, this was due to a lack of available testing. However, even as the access to COVID-19 tests increased, data were hard to come by because this information is not tracked by any official government agency. According to some estimates, at the end of July, upwards of 120,000 United States healthcare professionals had contracted COVID-19. And according to another source, at least 9,000 healthcare workers across the world have died as a result of complications due to the coronavirus. While the exact figures are not known, it is believed that healthcare workers have a three-times greater chance of contracting COVID-19 due to their occupation.
According to the recent study, 242 people out of 100,000 tested positive for COVID-19 from the general community. However, 747 healthcare workers per 100,000 people tested positive for COVID-19. Healthcare workers who were required to use inadequate PPE were 1.3 times more likely to contract the virus, and those workers who were forced to reuse equipment were 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19. Not surprisingly, healthcare professionals who did not have PPE experienced a six-fold risk of developing the virus. Even for those healthcare workers who had effective PPE, caring for a patient who tested positive for COVID-19 resulted in a five-times greater risk for contracting the virus.
Essential Workers in South Carolina
While there are a large number of essential workers in South Carolina, healthcare workers are the most common. Healthcare workers have been on the front line in the fight against COVID-19 well before the virus was completely understood. And due to the fact that the virus took the country by storm, many hospitals across South Carolina were unprepared to handle the number of patients. Initially, many healthcare workers were forced to care for sick patients without the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). However, even as the availability of PPE increased, healthcare workers continued to be exposed to COVID-19 at an alarming rate due to employers failing to take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
Studies have shown that South Carolina healthcare workers are both at an elevated risk of contracting COVID-19 and also tend to suffer from more serious symptoms than those who do not work in the healthcare industry. Across the country, there are at least 120,000 healthcare workers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. In many of these cases, the healthcare worker required hospitalization, and over 9,000 healthcare workers have died from complications related to COVID-19.
For those employees who do recover, they will have missed a significant amount of work and will face medical expenses related to their care. By filing a South Carolina workers’ compensation claim, healthcare workers and other essential employees who contracted COVID-19 as a result of their employment may be eligible for compensation.
The South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act allows employees who are injured on the job to recover for their lost wages and medical expenses. The workers’ compensation system is a no-fault system, meaning that an employee does not need to show that their employer was negligent or otherwise at fault for their injuries. Additionally, even employees who are partially at fault for their injuries may still be eligible for compensation.
When discussing workers’ compensation claims, on-the-job accidents may come to mind. However, employees who contract an occupational disease are also eligible. Under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws, an occupational disease is “a disease arising out of the course and scope of employment which is due to hazards in excess of those ordinarily incident to employment and is peculiar to the occupation in which the employee is engaged.”
To successfully bring a workers’ compensation claim, an employee who contracted COVID-19 would need to establish that they caught the virus at work. Clearly, there is not necessarily any way to know for certain where someone caught COVID-19, however, healthcare workers who are frequently exposed to COVID-19 may have an easier time proving their case. Unless, of course, the worker has a friend or family member whom may have transmitted the virus to the healthcare worker.
South Carolina workers’ compensation claims are often disputed by insurance companies that expend a huge amount of resources on their legal team. Essential workers and healthcare workers who have contracted COVID-19 should be sure that they have a dedicated advocate on their side, as well.
Contact a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today
While any South Carolina worker’s compensation case can be complex, this is especially the case given the unprecedented situation the COVID-19 pandemic presents. The attorneys the Steinberg Law Firm, LLP, are here to help you and your family through this difficult time. We represent South Carolina healthcare workers and other essential employees who have contracted COVID-19 while on the job. Even if you are not certain where you contracted the virus, we can help. Our compassionate team of South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers recognize the difficulties all healthcare workers are facing, and cater our representation accordingly, making sure to answer all your questions in a straightforward and understandable way.
Our lawyers and paralegals will be working remotely to ensure both new and existing clients will not experience any interruptions in service. We have deployed remote working technology and can accommodate phone and video conferencing during the quarantine period of time.
If you need our help for whatever reason, please contact us so we can learn how to help you. As always, we offer free consultations. During this remote period, we will conduct our initial consultation over the phone via FaceTime or Zoom. To learn more, call 843-720-2800 to schedule a free consultation today.