Imagine you are at work, lifting a heavy object and you strain your shoulder. The injury doesn’t feel horrible so you decide to give it a rest for a few days, thinking it will get better after a little bit of time. A week or two later and the pain isn’t gone; it has actually gotten worse. So you decide to tell your boss about the injury.
The scenario sounds harmless enough. Not reporting a workplace accident in a timely manner, however, can have negative consequences when it comes to receiving workers’ compensation. South Carolina, like all other states has strict regulations in place for both employees and employers regarding the reporting of workplace accidents. In fact, for countless workers’ compensation claims, denial is based exclusively on the failure of the worker to report the injury within the given timeframe.
Here’s a closer look at why reporting workplace accidents is crucial not only for the validity of your workers’ compensation claim, but also for overall workplace safety.
South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Reporting Regulations
The regulations for when and how an injured worker and their employer must report workplace injuries to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission is specified by Title 42 Chapter 15 of South Carolina laws.
Employee Responsibilities for Reporting Accidents
If you are injured in a workplace accident, you need to give your employer official notice immediately after the injury occurred. Until the accident and injury have been reported to the employer, the injured worker cannot expect to receive any workers’ compensation benefits. Notice of an accident can be done in writing, in person, or over the phone, but must be given to the employer or supervisor, not simply a co-worker. Best practices for employees is notifying the employer as soon as possible, although the law states they have up to 90 days after the injury happened to report it. For cases where the worker dies as the result of work-related injuries, their dependents, or parents if they have no dependents, can file a workers’ compensation claim up to two years after the death date to receive benefits.
Certain types of occupational injuries, however, are not caused by a single accident. This includes occupational illnesses from exposure or repetitive use injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. In order to receive workers’ compensation for these injuries, a worker must also report it to their employer. For these cases, a worker will have 90 days from when they were first made aware of the illness or injury to give notice. As a general guideline, a worker should give notice of such an injury within 90 days of receiving a diagnosis from a doctor or healthcare provider stating that the injury is work related.
Employer Responsibilities for Reporting Accidents
Once an injured employee has informed the employer of an accident/injury, the employer is also legally obligated to report the accident. For the injured worker to start receiving workers’ compensation, the employer must fill out the First Report of Injury or Illness form to the South Carolina State Accident Fund. Failing to report injuries in a timely manner can lead to higher costs on claims and increased premiums for the employer.
If an employer refuses to report your accident and injury to the Workers’ Compensation Commission, you should speak with a workers’ compensation attorney about your rights.
Why Workers Don’t Report Injuries
While some workers have no problems reporting workplace injuries to their employer, many injured workers fail to do so. In fact, some reports suggest that as many as two-thirds of work-related injuries and illnesses go unreported. There are a number of reasons why employee do not report injuries. Excuses workers have for not reporting injuries include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Fear of being fired/terminated;
- Fear of being passed up for promotions;
- Don’t want to be harassed or punished;
- The paperwork and process of filing a claim is too daunting;
- They consider pain a natural part of a job; or/and
- Don’t want to miss out on safety incentive prizes.
Although underreporting of injuries is most detrimental to the workers in the short-term, it can also have negative consequences for the employer in the long-term. Not reporting injuries can lead to audits and higher insurance premiums. Furthermore, if an accident that is an OSHA reportable incident, the company can face severe fines and penalties.
Accident Reporting, Workers’ Compensation, and Workplace Safety
For injured workers, it is essential to report accidents in a timely manner if they wish to receive workers’ compensation benefits. No benefits can be paid, either for missed time from work or medical expenses, if the injury goes unreported. A delay in reporting an accident will always result in a delay in benefits. In addition, an injury may become worse if it goes unreported and untreated, especially if the worker continues to do work tasks that aggravate the injury. If a claim is filed eventually, it may still be denied, simply because the accident was not reported in a timely manner.
Although many employers believe reporting accidents isn’t in their own interest, it is actually one of the best ways to control workers’ compensation costs. Early reporting and intervention doesn’t just cut down on the health costs and legal fees related to workers’ compensation, it also allows employers to improve their safety programs. Any time there is an injury, a workplace has the opportunity to evaluate their current safety procedures and make the changes necessary to prevent similar accidents from happening.
Need Help Filing a Claim?
If you have been injured in a workplace accident, don’t hesitate to report the injury to your employer. There are laws in place to protect injured workers. For help filing a claim in South Carolina, contact the skilled South Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at Dan Pruitt Injury Law Firm for a free consultation. As an authority on workers’ compensation issues in Greenville, SC, we can help decide what your next action should be and how you can receive the maximum benefits for your injury.