An August 2014 South Carolina Supreme Court ruling shows, on the surface, that there are circumstances in which an injury suffered during a work-related recreational or social activity can be compensable under theSouth Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. But the ruling communicates an even more simple, albeit more subtle, axiom.
The case shows that an attorney can be a valuable advocate in the pursuit of workers’ compensation benefits. TheCharleston workers’ compensation attorneys at Pierce, Herns, Sloan & Wilson LLC have the experience and performance record that a South Carolina workers’ compensation claimant wants.
What Happened in the Case?
An employee may expect compensation for a personal injury that arises out of and in the course of his or her employment. The surviving dependents of a decedent in a work-related accident also may expect compensation. Workers’ compensation pays for necessary medical treatment, loss of wages during a period of disability, and compensation for permanent disability or disfigurement.
In its August 2014 ruling, the state’s highest court held that an employee, who was injured while playing in a company kickball game that the employee organized, was entitled to compensation. The high court reversed rulings against the employee that a single workers’ compensation commissioner, followed by the full state workers’ compensation commission and the Court of Appeals, handed down.
The Supreme Court applied a test to determine whether the employee’s recreational activity lawfully took place within the course of employment. Generally, the activity has to fit into one of the following categories, according to the ruling:
[It occurs] on the premises during a lunch or recreation period as a regular incident of the employment;
The employer, by expressly or impliedly requiring participation, or by making the activity part of the services of an employee, brings the activity within the orbit of the employment; or
The employer derives substantial direct benefit from the activity beyond the intangible value of improvement in employee health and morale that is common to all kinds of recreation and social life.
The Supreme Court held that the injury was compensable under the second and third provisions because the employer implied that the employee was required to attend the event that he organized and that it became a part of his “services” to the workplace. The employee, in trying to avert being called out along the base path, landed awkwardly, “shattering his tibia and fibula.”
There is a lot more to successfully filing a workers’ compensation claim than filling out a few papers. The commissioners and, if necessary, the courts must consider whether the facts rise to the level of a compensable claim.
As the majority opinion of the Supreme Court reads, “An injury arises out of employment when there is apparent to the rational mind, upon consideration of all the circumstances, a causal relationship between the conditions under which the work is to be performed and the resulting injury. In general, whether an accident arises out of and is in the course and scope of employment is a question of fact for the full commission. However, ‘where there are no disputed facts, the question of whether an accident is compensable is a question of law.’”