Can I Sue and Get Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

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Workers' compensation claim

In South Carolina, injured people who are hurt on the job sometimes wonder if they can also maintain a civil action against a negligent third-party. The short answer is yes, you can file a lawsuit against a negligent individual or corporation, while also filing a workers’ compensation case with your employer. But there are some big exceptions. At Krause, Moorhead & Draisen, P.A., our Anderson workers’ compensation lawyers understand the various nuances that apply. Give us a call if you need help with your claim.

Is a Workers’ Compensation Claim a Lawsuit?

Not really. A lawsuit, by definition, is an action that you file in court. A South Carolina workers’ compensation claim is an insurance claim that you file with your employer’s insurance carrier in order to obtain benefits like:

  • Getting your medical bills paid
  • Money to help with your lost income
  • Money to pay for future lost wages

Workers’ compensation claims are not heard by a jury, and they are not held in open court. Instead, they are heard by commissioners who are employed by the Workers’ Compensation Commission. These are formal proceedings (“hearings”), but they are not technically court.

Can I Sue My Employer?

There are lots of reasons why you might sue an employer. However, workers’ compensation is not one of them. In fact, your sole remedy for getting money for your injury (from your employer) is through workers’ compensation. However, there are times when you may need to also file a civil lawsuit against the person or company that hurt you.

Why Might You Need to File a Lawsuit for a Work Injury?

Consider a simple example. If you drive for your job and a drunk driver hits you, then you have two options. First, you have a workers’ compensation claim, because you were performing your job duties at the time of your injury and you were on the job. However, you also have a potential lawsuit against the drunk driver. If the drunk driver has the means to pay and has insurance sufficient to help cover your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages, then it may make sense to pursue a claim against that individual as well.

Can I Keep Both Recoveries?

Only partly. Under South Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Law, if the workers’ compensation insurance policy pays you for your injuries and you later collect compensation from the negligent party who hurt you, then the workers’ compensation insurance carrier will have a lien against your third-party case. This just means that a large share of the money you collect will probably go to paying back the workers’ compensation carrier. You cannot “double-dip.”

However, when you hire a lawyer, there are offsets that apply to your attorney fees and expenses. Therefore, most of the time a lawyer can help you keep some of the additional money you receive, thus making it worthwhile to pursue the civil action.

Legal Help is Here When You Need it

If you are injured on the job in or around Anderson, South Carolina, give the attorneys at Krause, Moorhead & Draisen, P.A. a call today to schedule your free consultation.

We help people like you every day.


Steven Krause is a personal injury, auto accident, and workers’ compensation lawyer who practices in Anderson, SC. He graduated form the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law and has been practicing law for 40 years now. Steven Krause believes in fighting for the injured. Learn more about his experience here.