Sometimes Work Is Play…And Vice Versa

“Workplace” Injuries Outside the Four Walls of the Job Premises

Nearly all employers in South Carolina are required by law to provide workers’ compensation coverage to their employees. When a worker is injured in the performance of his or her duties, workers’ compensation pays the medical bills and two-thirds of their normal wages for the time during which they are unable to work.

Sounds simple, right? It’s not always easy for an injured worker to receive fair compensation. There are frequently areas of dispute as to the severity of the injury or the period over which the benefits will be paid. Or even whether the worker is entitled to compensation at all. Sometimes the Workers Compensation Commission takes the position that the injury did not happen within the course of the person’s employment.

Recent Appeal Decision: South Carolina Workers’ Comp Case Summary

The South Carolina Supreme Court just handed down an interesting opinion on this issue. Stephen Whigham was employed as the Director of Creative Solutions at Jackson Dawson, a marketing and PR firm in Greenville. In management discussions about team-building activities and morale boosting, Whigham suggested a company kickball game, and his proposal met with approval and money for facility rental, T-shirts and refreshments.

The kickball game was held on a Friday afternoon at 3:00, and about half of the company’s employees attended it, the others remaining in the office. As luck would have it, Whigham was injured on the last play of the game as he moved to avoid being tagged out. He landed awkwardly, shattering two bones in his right leg. He underwent two surgeries and will likely need a future knee replacement. Whigham made a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, which were denied on the grounds that the injury did not arise out of or in the course of his employment. An appeal was filed with the court of appeals, and they agreed with the WC commissioners.

What do you think? Was Whigham’s attendance at the game voluntary and thus not in the course of his employment? The Supreme Court ruled that, in his particular circumstances, he was impliedly required to attend the kickball game he suggested, organized and publicized as part of his job and was, therefore, entitled to worker’s compensation benefits. Even the members of the Court were in disagreement, however, as one Justice dissented on the grounds that while Whigham might have been impliedly required to attend the game, taking part as a player was voluntary. It was also pointed out that if any other player had been injured, they would not have been entitled to benefits because both their attendance and their participation were voluntary.

See . . . it’s complicated.

How an Attorney Helps Secure Workers’ Compensation Benefits

That’s why personal injury lawyers have an important role to play in helping injured workers get the compensation they’re entitled to under the law. We’re not just car wreck lawyers. We can step in and negotiate with an employer, an insurer or the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission to help someone injured on the job obtain money for medical bills and rehabilitation, as well as compensation to replace income lost during the recovery period. Sometimes we have to take the matter all the way to the Supreme Court, but that’s okay – we do battle because we believe in the rights and power of working men and women.

You can read more on our website about how the Louthian Law Firm helps victims of workplace injuries. And remember, “workplace” injuries don’t always occur within the four walls of the premises. Call us at (803) 454-1200 if you have questions about an on-the-job accident or if your employer and worker’s compensation provider are balking at paying the benefits you are due under the law.