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Is South Carolina's work comp system headed for a major change?

Every day, hundreds of thousands people across South Carolina report to work thinking it will be nothing more than just another routine day. While this will end up being the case for most people, there are some who will end up suffering some type of severe and truly debilitating work injury.

In unfortunate situations like these, injured people can at least take comfort in the fact that they will have access to workers' compensation benefits to help them make ends meet and grant them much-needed peace of mind while they recover.

Interestingly enough, however, one state lawmaker recently proposed a measure that would allow employers here in the Palmetto State to pursue an alternative to this time-tested work comp system.

Rep. David Hiott (R) has introduced the South Carolina Injury Benefit Plan Alternative, which would excuse employers from the requirement of carrying work comp insurance in the event they could secure certification from the state's Department of Insurance as a "qualified employer."

In order to do this, an employer would need to create and maintain what is known as an alternative benefit plan that is otherwise comparable to the existing work comp system.

Specifically, the alternative benefit plan would have to meet the following minimum criteria:

  • Total disability benefits would have to be a minimum of 75 percent of a worker's average weekly wages.
  • Temporary partial disability benefits would have to be a minimum of 75 percent of the difference between a worker's pre- and post-average weekly wages.
  • Death benefits would have to be paid when a workplace accident results in death or within two years of the workplace accident.
  • Benefits would be paid on a no-fault basis (with the exception being injury or death attributable to willful intent or intoxication).

According to Hiott, the legislation would help ensure that competition exists in the marketplace, something of great benefit to injured workers.

It's worth noting that this legislation is not without precedent, as Oklahoma passed opt-out legislation in 2013, and Tennessee introduced just such a measure this year. Furthermore, Texas has long had such a law on the books.

What are your thoughts?

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Greenville, SC 29601

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