Can I Get Workers’ Compensation Even When My Injury Was My Fault?

In a word – YES.  In South Carolina, workers compensation is a “no fault” system.  What this means is that in order to recover under workers compensation, a claimant does not need to establish that their employer did something wrong.  It also means a Claimant does not have to establish that they did nothing wrong themselves.  What must be established is that the injury itself occurred within the course and scope of employment.

As explained by the Supreme Court of South Carolina:

The Workers’ Compensation Act was designed to supplant tort law by providing a no-fault system focusing on quick recovery, relatively ascertainable awards, and limited litigation. Wigfall v. Tideland Utils., Inc., 354 S.C. 100, 115, 580 S.E.2d 100, 107 (2003). Therefore, an employee need only prove a causal connection between the conditions under which the work is required to be performed and the resulting injury. Grant Textiles, 372 S.C. at 201, 641 S.E.2d at 871. As Professor Larson has aptly observed:

The right to compensation benefits depends on one simple test: Was there a work-connected injury? Negligence, and, for the most part, fault, are not in issue and cannot affect the result. Let the employer’s conduct be flawless in its perfection, and let the employee’s be abysmal in its clumsiness, rashness and ineptitude; if the accident arises out of and in the course of employment, the employee receives an award. Reverse the positions, with a careless and stupid employer and a wholly innocent employee and the same award issues.

Thus, the test is not the relation of an individual’s personal quality (fault) to an event, but the relationship of an event to an employment. The essence of applying the test is not a matter of assessing blame, but of marking out boundaries.

Arthur Larson & Lex K. Larson, Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law § 1.03[1] (2014). Requiring an employee to prove a fall was the “fault” of the employer in creating a danger or hazard is unfaithful to the principles underlying the creation of workers’ compensation and turns the entire system on its head. For an accidental injury to be compensable under the workers’ compensation scheme there must be a causal connection between the employment and the injury; that is the test and the claimant need prove nothing more.

Nicholson v. S.C. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 411 S.C. 381, 389–90, 769 S.E.2d 1, 5 (2015).

As such, even if you believe (or have been told) that your injury was your fault, you may still be entitled to benefits under workers compensation.  This doesn’t mean every claim that is made is automatically accepted – there are still other issues that must be addressed – but it does mean that just because an injury may be your fault you are not automatically left with nothing.

If you’ve been injured at work, regardless of who may at fault (or even if no one was at fault), call Jeremy Dantin at 864-585-5100 (direct number 864-699-0146) or email him at jdantin@spartanlaw.com to see if our workers compensation team can help.  Consultations are free, so it never costs you a dime to get start getting answers.

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