Not all companies required by South Carolina law to carry workers’ compensation insurance actually do so. In these cases, where the employer was a subcontractor, South Carolina Code Section 42-415 requires the higher tier subcontractor, contractor or project owner and/or that firm’s insurance carrier be responsible for work injury coverage.
That contractor may then later be eligible for reimbursement through the Uninsured Employers’ Fund.
The idea is to provide swift relief to injured workers. It also provides incentive for contractors and project managers to thoroughly vet the companies with which they are working.
In the recent case of Rose v. JJS Trucking before the South Carolina Court of Appeal, a higher tier contractor appealed the workers’ compensation commission’s refusal to order a transfer of responsibility for payment of benefits to an employee of a subcontractor to the Uninsured Employers’ Fund, per the aforementioned statute. The appellate court, however, ruled the order is not a final decision because the commission hadn’t yet ruled on the merits of worker’s entire claim for benefits. Therefore, the court dismissed the appeal.
According to court records, plaintiff suffered injury while employed by a trucking company. That trucking company, which did not carry the required workers’ compensation insurance, had been subcontracted by appellant in this case, a limited liability corporation.
Worker filed a claim for coverage, and the commission ordered the LLC to pay for medical treatment as well as temporary total disability of benefits to the worker. Contractor sought transfer of responsibility for payments to the Uninsured Employers’ Fund, but commission refused to do so because the issue was not yet ripe for adjudication. Although worker had filed a claim for permanent disability, the court found he had not yet reached maximum medical improvement, and so it could not rule on that claim.
Until that order is final, commission ruled, it can’t rule on the request to transfer the claim. Because there was no actual ruling, the appellate court found there can’t be a valid appeal.
Appellate court conceded this left appellant with no remedy until a final hearing, meaning the company will be paying those benefits until such time as there is a final order. A representative with the Uninsured Employers’ Fund had already conceded it will likely have to provide reimbursement for the claim once it’s made final, but it can’t initiate reimbursement without a court order to do so.
Further, appellate court disagreed that its decision would deprive the higher tier contractor of any remedy. While reimbursement may be delayed, payments will be recovered if the court orders a transfer. If no transfer is ordered, the court will issue a final decision, upon which the contractor can appeal.
Our Spartanburg work injury attorneys recognize these claims often take a great deal of time and research, and we are committed to ensuring our clients are fairly represented.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Rose v. JJS Trucking, Jan. 28, 2015, South Carolina Court of Appeals
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OR-OSHA v. CBI Services, Inc. – Monitoring Workplace Safety, Jan. 25, 2015, Spartanburg Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog