Workers' Compensation in South Carolina is a great system for those that need it. I can't tell you how many people I've encountered over the years who would have been sunk, physically and financially, if it were not for the workers' compensation system. That having been said, sometimes there is a tough line between who is covered by workers' comp and who is not covered. Often, it comes down to the highly loaded legal term "employee".
I thought about this when I read a recent case in the Supreme Court of South Carolina, Shuler v. Tri-County Electric Cooperative, No. 26731 (S.C. Sup. Ct., Oct. 12, 2009). In Shuler, the claimant (the person seeking workers' comp coverage) was on the Board of Trustees for the company. He received per diem allowances, reimbursement for expenses, and other benefits, all of which were reported to the IRS as 1099 business income (as opposed to "wages"). He was injured in a South Carolina auto accident while traveling to Texas for a work-related conference. The Court held that when a person gratuitously offers services to a company, having no right to demand payment, then he does not qualify as an "employee" and may not recover workers' compensation benefits.
What does this mean for you? Probably not much - there are far more employees out there than there are board members traveling to professional conferences on the company's dime.
Here is the point: the legal term "employee" is very tricky, and it may be the difference between you getting workers' comp benefits or not. If you are not an "employee", the law doesn't require that your company carry workers' compensation coverage that applies to you. When you are hurt on the job, you probably want to be an "employee". If there is any question, talk to a South Carolina workers' comp lawyer who can intervene and make sure you fit within that term, and can lay out other options if you don't.
"The information relayed in this blog is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. The cases referenced and explained by the blog's author(s) are for informational purposes only and are not intended to imply that certain, or similar, results may be achieved in each client's case."