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Privatized Workers’ Compensation? Possible Changes and What it Means for You

A recent legislative push for privatized workers’ compensation insurance is sweeping the nation, including South Carolina. The Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation (ARAWC) is pushing to allow companies to have their own insurance in lieu of state-run insurance coverage. Though the current schemes in most states allow for companies to choose their workers’ compensation insurance from either state agencies or pre-approved private entities, the ARAWC is pushing to allow companies more freedom in deciding which coverage and what companies to seek this coverage from.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance Coverage

According to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission, workers’ compensation began as a way to compensate employees for injuries suffered on the job without considering fault. This allows workers to be able to receive benefits to help cover medical expenses and lost wages that occurred as a result of an on site accident in lieu of claiming that their employer was negligent in causing the injury. Although workers’ compensation laws have changed throughout the years in South Carolina, the objectives of providing recourse for occupational accidents, limiting personal injury litigation in the courts, encouraging rehabilitation, and striving to prevent accidents in the workplace have all remained uniform.

Employers typically obtain workers’ compensation coverage through state-run organizations or pre-approved private companies. Employers are not left with many options given the autonomy of the selections. The ARAWC’s objective is not to eradicate workers’ compensation requirements, but rather to allow more autonomy in what types of workers’ compensation plans employers are permitted to purchase. Employers could also limit the scope of eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits and provide stricter guidelines for collecting benefits. Texas and Oklahoma employers are already allowed to opt out of state mandated workers’ compensation—a goal that the ARAWC has for all states, including South Carolina.

On the one hand, there is something to be said for allowing employers the option to choose their coverage for their employees. Employees can inquire about the type of workers’ compensation coverage available before accepting a job with a company. On the other, there is great concern among critics that workers’ compensation coverage would become so limited as to fail to protect workers’ rights. A 2012 study in the opt-out state of Texas found that fewer than half of the private workers’ compensation insurance plans offered benefits to seriously injured employees. Private insurance companies in Texas are also allowed to place caps on each injured worker.

South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorneys

Regardless of what the future holds in terms of workers’ compensation insurance coverage for South Carolina employees, as an employee, you have a right to claim workers’ compensation benefits if you are injured on the job. In South Carolina, you have a limited time frame in which to notify your employer of your injury, initiate a claim, and file an appeal if you receive an adverse decision initially. Hiring an experienced workers’ compensation attorney is the best way to ensure you receive the benefits you are entitled to by law. Contact the Solomon Law Group’s Columbia office and let us help you navigate your workers’ compensation claim.

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