Workers’ Compensation Opt-Out Proposed in South Carolina

According to a recent news article from Business Insurance, South Carolina legislatures are considering a bill, which would allow employers to opt-out of the requirement to purchase a workers’ compensation insurance policy by providing an alternative benefits plan.

law books.jpgSouth Carolina is only one of four states that have either already enacted an alternative benefits opt-out law or is considering doing so. The first state to do this was Texas, which actually adopted the law over 100 years ago. Oklahoma enacted a workers’ compensation opt-out law in 2013, and Tennessee is in the process of creating this type of legal exception.

As our Spartanburg workers’ compensation attorneys understand, this proposed law, officially entitled the South Carolina Injury Benefits Plan Alternative, requires an alternative benefits plan to be “comparable” to what is required pursuant to the state workers’ compensation provisions of the South Carolina Code of Laws.

Republican South Carolina Representative David Hiott introduced the proposed legislation and argues the free market operates in a way so the greatest level of benefits are possible when there is competition. Under the specific provisions in the bill, compensation for lost wages must be no less than 75 percent of workers’ average weekly wage, and in no circumstance shall they be less than $75 per month.
In the case of a temporary partial disability rating, an employee will be entitled to receive benefits at 75 percent of the difference between a workers pre- and post-disability wages. Essentially, if a worker is injured on the job or suffers a work-related illness, and he or she can only work part time, he or she will obviously receive a smaller paycheck. The alternative benefits plan for injured workers would entitle a partially disabled worker to 75 percent of the difference between the new smaller paycheck and the workers’ pre-accident paycheck. The reason the amount is set at 75 percent instead of 100 percent, which would provide full compensation, a number more appropriate and needed by injured workers and their families, is because legislatures believe people will feign injury to avoid working if they could earn the same amount of money.

In the workers’ compensation system, administrative law judges (ALJs) refer to what they believe is an injured worker exaggerating his or her symptoms to avoid going back to work as “malingering.”

This new proposal also provides for no compensation if a worker is injured on the job due to his or her own intoxication or a willful intent to suffer an injury. There is also a provision that any alternative benefits plan shall operate on a no-fault basis, as the current workers’ compensation law provides, and that it will not matter if an injury was caused by another employee, third party, or other business.

Our South Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys will continue to monitor the progress of this new provision as legislatures attempt to get it passed into law. As this has never been done on a large scale, it hard to know exactly what effect it may eventually have on injured workers, should it ever be passed into law.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
South Carolina considers workers comp opt-out system , ,May 20, 2015, Business In ance

More Blog Entries
Bike v. Johnson & Johnson Health Care – Workers’ Comp Benefits in Spite of Underlying Injury, March 28, 2015, Spartanburg Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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