What’s Considered a Work-Related Injury?

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To receive workers’ compensation, your injury must be work-related. What does it mean for an injury to be work-related? Our workers’ comp lawyer explains. You can contact Bobby Jones Law to get an individualized review of your case.

What Does It Mean for an Injury to Be Work-Related in South Carolina?

For workers’ compensation, an injury is work-related if it arises out of and in the course of employment.

S.C. Code § 42-1-160(A) defines an injury and creates the requirement for the injury to be work-related to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Whether an injury is work-related is a factual question that depends on the specific circumstances.

For an injury to be work-related, two things must be true:

  1. The injury must arise out of the course of employment.
  2. The injury must occur in the scope of employment.

Both must be true for the worker to qualify for compensation.

Arising out of the course of employment

There must be a causal connection between employment and injury. The injury must be incidental of the work and a reasonable result of the work.

In Broughton v. South of the Border, the court denied a workers’ compensation claim. The injured worker left work early to check on a sick coworker. While at the coworker’s house, they slipped and fell. The court said that checking on coworkers was not a job duty, so the injury did not arise out of the course of employment.

There have been other cases where the court found that personal assistance to a coworker was an insubstantial deviation from employment, making benefits payable. (See Caley v. Ross Builders Supplies, Inc., 238 S.C. 38 (1961) when someone was injured while making something to assist a coworker in their job duties.))

In the scope of employment

An injury is in the scope of employment if it occurs within the period of employment at a place where the employee is reasonably in the performance of their duties. They must be fulfilling those duties or engaged in something incidental to job duties.

For example, if you work from home, and you walk downstairs to get coffee, and you fall on the stairs, the injury is not in the scope of your employment. However, if your work-from-home job involves working with equipment, and you’re injured using a tool, the injury is likely in the scope of employment. (See Fountain v. Hartsville Oil Mill, 207 S.C. 119 (1945), denying benefits where a worker was helping the supervisor with the supervisor’s personal vehicle, on his day off, at the supervisor’s private residence, and without clocking in for a shift.)

What does the scope and course of employment mean for business trips?

Activities on a business trip may be in scope and course of employment, even if you aren’t in a meeting or actively working at the time of injury. It’s a factual question of whether you were in a place where you may reasonably be in the performance of your duties or engaging in something incidental to your duties.

Traveling employees receive some protection when the travel creates necessities of being away from home.

For example, the South Carolina courts upheld workers’ compensation when an employee died in an overnight hotel fire. Even though the employee’s conference was over, he was still in the scope of his employment by staying at the hotel a second night because it wasn’t reasonable to expect him to drive home in the middle of the night after the conference ended. See Ardis v. Combined Insurance Company.

Is mental illness in the scope and course of employment for worker’s compensation?

Mental illness is considered as arising in the course of employment for workers’ compensation only when it is accompanied by a physical injury. That means that the employment conditions causing the mental injury were extraordinary and unusual. The worker must prove causation between employment conditions and the mental illness. (S.C. Code § 42-1-160(B).)

Does getting hurt working from home qualify as a work-related injury?

Getting hurt working from home may qualify as a work-related injury if it is in the scope and course of employment. A claim is not necessarily barred just because the injury occurs at your home.

Is commuting to work compensable injury in workers’ compensation?

In general, an injury does not occur in the scope and course of employment if it occurs while commuting to work. Usually, the going and coming rule applies to say that a person is not acting in their employment while going or coming to the place where they work.

However, there are five exceptions, including transportation provided by the employer or paid commute, duties during commute, employer-constructed and inherently dangerous duties, injury in proximity to the workplace with express or implied required approach. See Medlin v. Upstate Plaster Serv., 329 S.C. 92 (1998).

Can you get workers’ compensation for the common cold?

Usually, the common cold is not considered in the scope or course of employment for workers’ compensation. If you are in a field that carries extraordinary risk of disease, there may be an exception.

If you’re fired, can you get workers’ compensation for stress in South Carolina?

No. S.C. Code § 42-1-160(C) excludes stress and other maladies from workers’ compensation when they are the result of personnel actions like termination or discipline. There is an exception if the action is taken in an extraordinary or unusual manner.

What is the rescue or sudden emergency doctrine for workers’ comp?

Even if an action isn’t a part of regular duties, workers’ compensation may be payable where the worker undertakes the act in good faith to advance the employer’s interests, attempting a rescue or responding to a sudden emergency. Howell v. Kash & Karry, 264 S.C. 298 (1975).

Talk to an Attorney About Whether Your Injury is Work-Related.

Do you have a question about the scope and course of employment? Contact us online at Bobby Jones Law to talk to a skilled workers’ comp attorney about your case.

The team at Bobby Jones Law LLC works tirelessly for the injured in South Carolina. His achievements include:
  • More than $60 million collected for our clients
  • Multiple recoveries exceeding $1 million, including an eight-figure settlement
  • Recognized by Best Lawyers in America
  • Named among the “Best Law Firms” by U.S. News & World Report
  • Named to the Top 100 Trial Lawyers by The National Trial Lawyers
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  • Selected as Legal Elite of the Upstate 2021–2023
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We’re humbled to be considered one of the top firms in the Upstate and invite you to learn what sets our award-winning legal services apart. Call or request a consultation online.
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