This page refers to Slip and Fall Injuries and South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law law in South Carolina.
Since laws differ between states, if you are located in North Carolina, please click here.
Slip and Fall Injuries and South Carolina
Workers’ Compensation Law
One of the most common causes of injuries in the workplace is a worker slipping or falling. The National Floor Safety Institute estimates that 85% of workers’ compensation claims are as a result of slips and falls. In most cases, a slip and fall injury at the workplace is going to be handled just like any other workplace injury, and the process for making a claim is the same.
But what are the causes of workplace slips and falls and where do they happen? What kinds of injuries result from slips and falls? And are there any special rules that could enable injured workers to receive compensation in South Carolina?
Workplace Slips and Falls: “It Just Happened”
The first thing that comes to many people’s minds when they think of a workplace slip-and-fall injury is in construction. That’s certainly valid – there are many things about being in construction or in trades that pose a trip hazard. There are rules governing safety on these sites to try to prevent those accidents.
But people in other jobs are in danger as well. Retail and service industry workers are on their feet a lot, moving around, and can easily slip and fall in the course of their jobs. Think about the restaurant worker or chef swooping around a crowded, busy kitchen or weaving between tables with people moving around them.
And what of the office workers who put in time behind a desk? They’re not immune to the dangers of slip and fall accidents. Broken desk chairs, worn carpet seams, or that spill on the break room floor can all result in an injury. In fact, the South Carolina Supreme Court expanded the coverage of workers’ compensation in 2015 to include falls at the office. The cases that resulted in this expansion were Barnes v. Charter 1 Realty, (411 S.C. 391, 768 S.E.2d 651 (2015)), and Nicholson v. S.C. Dep’t of Soc. Servs. (411 S.C. 381, 769 S.E.2d 1 (2015)).
Examples of Slip, Trip, and Fall Hazards at the Workplace
It’s difficult to list all the things that might cause a slip and fall injury at the workplace. Here are some examples.
- Slick surface falls – Whether you’re in a parking lot, on a sidewalk, or in a building, there are dozens of things that could reduce traction or cause you to slip and fall. Icy conditions, wet floors, spills, and even a fine coating of sand could catch you out.
- Moving between levels – Elevators, escalators, and stairs come to mind, but this includes things like ramps, too. In all of these cases, you’ve got the added threat of distance to the ground.
- Falling from height – You don’t have to be moving between levels to fall from a height. Maybe you’re on the roof, or some scaffolding. Maybe you’re on a stage, or a ladder, or even a chair. The farther you fall, the more likely you are to be injured.
- Tripping on objects – This is a massive catch-all. A power cord for a tool. A toolbox. A toy left on the floor of a daycare center. A box of papers. Merchandise waiting to be put on shelves. If you work where a lot of stuff is lying around, there are risks everywhere.
- Rough or damaged surfaces – Sometimes, a slip or trip is the result of walking or moving around uneven, broken, or damaged floor or ground. Obviously, those in construction must deal with this threat regularly. Broken pavement, potholes, uneven slopes, and such pose a threat. But those who work elsewhere may encounter broken tiles, bad carpet seams, improperly installed thresholds, and more.
If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident and the cause of your fall isn’t on this list, don’t worry. The list isn’t exhaustive. Contact an experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney if you have questions about your case.
Falling on the Way to Work: Special Rules in South Carolina Workers’ Comp
Most of the time, if you’re injured in a fall at work, you’re going to be eligible for coverage. By the same token, if you’re injured when you are going to work or coming home from work, you generally are not covered. This is because of South Carolina’s “Going and Coming Rule.”
Basically, commuting to and from work is not considered an on-the-job injury. However, there are some possible (or common) exceptions, because not all jobs are the same.
- Company Vehicle – Construction workers, HVAC technicians, and anyone who is given a company vehicle may be covered if they slip and fall as they make their way to work – at a gas station fueling the vehicle, for instance.
- Work-Related Task – If someone has to do something as part of their employment on the way to work, they may be covered if they are injured in a slip and fall accident. Picking up office supplies, dropping off bank deposits, and the like are examples.
- Special Errand – Sometimes, an employee is assigned a task or asked to do something beyond the normal scope of their work. Grabbing lunch for meeting attendees, or picking up an item for a supervisor. If you slip and fall and are injured performing a task that’s beyond the scope of your normal job, you may be covered.
- Dangerous Route to Work – What if a worker has to cross a very dark parking lot to get into the building, and trips on an unseen curb? What if a construction worker must approach the work site via a walk path that is routinely saturated by mud or water, and falls as a result? This exception can be at the discretion of the Commission, but it is worth noting. Employers must take reasonable steps to enable safe access for workers.
- Close Proximity to Employment – When a worker is injured in a place that is in proximity to their workplace, and because the employee was expressly or implicitly required to use that place to gain access to work, a slip and fall injury may be covered. In other words, employees are allowed adequate time to leave and enter their workplace.
Case Law Example
The South Carolina Supreme Court has “recognized that employment includes not only the actual doing of the work, but a reasonable margin of time and space necessary to be used in passing to and from the place where the work is to be done. If the employee be injured while passing, with the express or implied consent of the employer, to or from his work by a way over the employer’s premises, or over those of another in such proximity and relation as to be in practical effect a part of the employer’s premises, the injury is one arising out of and in the course of the employment….”
This quote is from the decision in Williams v. S.C. State Hosp., 245 S.C. 377, 381, 140 S.E.2d 601, 603 (1965), where the Court awarded benefits to an employee injured walking from the hospital building where she worked to an employer-maintained parking lot provided for employee parking, and described the employee walking to the parking lot at the end of her workday as “a reasonable incident to [the employee] leaving the place of her work.”
Can I Sue My Employer for a Slip and Fall Injury at Work?
In most cases, no. Workers’ compensation law in South Carolina is designed to provide benefits for as many workers as possible with the fewest possible lawsuits. This is a generalization, but essentially, workers who are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits get those benefits (and employers agree to provide them) in lieu of a lawsuit to argue fault, etc.
There are, of course, exceptions to workers being entitled to benefits as well. Workers are not entitled to benefits, for example, if their injury is the result of being intoxicated at work. And no, you can’t sue your employer for that, either.
If You Slip and Fall at Work…
Seek medical treatment for your injuries, notify your employer, and we recommend contacting an experienced South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney to discuss the circumstances of your case.
Contact a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin
South Carolina workers’ compensation law is designed to help workers who are injured. If you have been hurt in a slip and fall accident, contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin. Whether you’re just starting your claim to benefits, if you’ve been denied, or if you want to try to make sure you are getting all the benefits you may be entitled, an attorney can help you navigate the process, seek the benefits you may be entitled to, and help ensure that your employer or the insurance company follows through.