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Updated: June 13, 2024

South Carolina workers' compensation insurance can shield your employees and business from the unexpected

Published By:

Jon Davis

South Carolina workers' compensation requirements and rules

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Workers’ compensation insurance provides employees in South Carolina with no-cost medical treatment and wage replacement benefits should they become sick or injured while working. But workers’ comp also benefits South Carolina employers by protecting them against costly lawsuits brought by workers who experience an injury or illness while on the job.


Staying up-to-date on workers’ compensation requirements can take time. This guide will help you better understand South Carolina’s workers’ comp laws, whether or not you need workers’ compensation insurance for your business, what it covers, and how you can get it.

Which employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance in South Carolina?

The general rule in South Carolina is that any business with four (4) or more employees is required to have workers compensation coverage. Both part-time workers and family members are counted as employees.


In some cases, general contractors may also be required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, with the decision made on a case-by-case basis. The same rule applies to subcontractors, even those with less than four employees. In most cases, a licensed insurance professional can answer any questions regarding the need for coverage.


Are there any exemptions?

Not every employer in South Carolina is required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance. Exemptions to the Act include:

  • Employers with less than $3,000 in annual payroll the previous year
  • Casual employees that don’t work regular hours
  • Agricultural employees
  • Railroad or railway express companies
  • People selling agricultural products
  • Real estate agents working for a broker
  • Federal employees


Next, let’s learn about what benefits a policy typically provides.

What does workers’ compensation cover in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, there are several types of benefits that covered workers are eligible to receive should they be injured on the job:

  1. Medical treatment for accidents, injuries, and any work-related illnesses. This includes repetitive stress injuries as well. Medical benefits cover all treatment including surgery, hospitalization, any necessary medical suppliers, prosthetic devices, and prescriptions.
  2. Lost wages for temporary or permanent disability. Benefits for lost wages start after seven (7) days of being out of work, with the amount dependent on the length of time the benefit is required.
  3. Ongoing care. If your employee requires ongoing care such as physical or occupational therapy, the cost of that therapy is included.
  4. Reimbursement of travel expenses. If an employee needs to travel a significant distance to a doctor or pharmacy, the cost of travel is reimbursed as well.
  5. Death benefits. Death benefits including funeral expenses are provided to an employee’s beneficiaries should the accident or injury result in death.


Now that we know more about what a policy covers, let’s find out how a business can buy coverage.


How can you purchase workers’ compensation insurance?

South Carolina employers can purchase workers’ compensation insurance from any commercial insurance carrier licensed in the state. Insurance coverage can also be obtained from the state’s assigned risk program designed for high-risk employers, which is administered by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI).


Business owners can also apply to the state to become self-insured or participate in a self-insurance fund, with three years of audited GAAP compliant financial statements required to be submitted with the self-insurance application. For those that chose to self-insure, there is also a self-insurance tax that needs to be paid to the state at the end of each fiscal year. Working with either private insurance company or the assigned risk pool can protect you and your employees.

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How are accidents reported?

An employee must notify their employer immediately should a workplace injury or accident occur. If the injury is an emergency, treatment should be sought immediately, while notifying the employer at the earliest possible convenience.


All work-related injuries should be reported within 90 days of occurrence. In addition, the employee may also file a claim within two years with the Workers Compensation Commission. If these timeframes are not adhered to, the employee forfeits the right to report the injury or file a claim.


Once an employer receives notification of injury, they are required to file Employer’s First Report of Injury. The injury must also be reported to the South Carolina Department of Labor. Businesses that fail to file the First Report of Injury can be assessed a penalty of $200, though the fine can be appealed.


How are medical providers chosen to treat work-related injuries?

Employees can seek emergency care at the nearest medical facility. However, for follow-up care or when treating a non-emergency, the employee is required to use the employer’s choice of physician, including for emergency room referrals. If the employee seeks care at a physician of their choice, medical care and any subsequent benefits may be denied.


Additional workers’ comp resources for business owners and employers

For more information, contact the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission at 803-737-5700. Listed below are some additional resources that can be useful for South Carolina employers.

Workers’ compensation insurance is must for most South Carolina businesses

Businesses with more than four employees in South Carolina are required by law to have workers’ compensation insurance. Instead of penalties, South Carolina law holds an employer who does not have adequate workers’ compensation coverage financially responsible for all medical care required by an injured or ill employee. For your financial and legal protection, peace of mind, and to protect your employees from costly medical bills, workers’ compensation insurance is a must. If you have questions regarding obtaining South Carolina workers’ compensation coverage, our team is here to help.


Please note all material in this article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute tax, benefits or legal advice. You should always contact a qualified tax, legal or financial professional, in your area for comprehensive tax or legal advice.

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Jon Davis is the Sr. Content Marketing Manager at OnPay. He has over 15 years of experience writing for small and growing businesses. Jon lives and works in Atlanta.