The workers’ compensation system was designed to ensure that workers who suffer an injury while working are able to continue to provide for themselves and their families. With over 32,000 workplace injuries being reported in the private sector in 2016, workplace injuries are all too common.
In addition, there may be injured workers who are in delicate immigration situations who suffer injuries while in the workplace. This has caused many undocumented immigrants to be concerned about their place in the South Carolina’s workers’ compensation system.
Fortunately, the South Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act includes undocumented immigrants in their definition of an employee: “every person engaged in an employment under any appointment, contract of hire, or apprenticeship, expressed or implied, oral or written, including aliens and also including minors, whether lawfully or unlawfully employed.”
However, it is important for workers to know how the system works for workers’ compensation for undocumented immigrants in Charleston. A seasoned workers’ compensation attorney could help explain your rights to benefits as an undocumented immigrant and could help you secure payments for medical expenses, lost wages, and disability after suffering a work injury.
Legal Status Conflict Between Federal and State Law
It is important to understand a person’s legal status when it comes to workers’ compensation benefits. Under the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), 8 U.S.C. 1324(a), employers are prohibited from knowingly hiring an undocumented immigrant. However, this law only prohibits an employer from hiring a worker with the knowledge that they are undocumented and does not require the employer to conduct an exhaustive background check of its employees.
Under the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act’s definition of an employee, an undocumented immigrant would then be considered an employee and would thereby be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Case law has also affirmed this expansive definition.
What Benefits are Undocumented Immigrants Entitled to Receive?
South Carolina workers’ compensation laws may entitle injured workers to various benefits to help them provide for themselves as well as their families. Workers’ compensation can pay for:
- Necessary medical care
- Wages lost while unable to work
- Permanent disability
- Disfigurement, physical impairment, and loss of limbs
- Reimbursement for medical care-related mileage costs
- Death benefits
For help with pursuing these benefits, contact an attorney who is knowledgeable about workers’ compensation for undocumented immigrants in Charleston.
What to Do After Suffering an Injury
Regardless of a person’s immigration status, it is important to take the following steps after a workplace injury:
- Seek emergency medical attention – This is important to ensure a worker’s immediate health and safety and also serves as a crucial part of filing a workers’ compensation claim.
- Report the injury to the employer – An employee has 90 days to report their injury to their employer. If an employee fails to inform their employer of their injury, they may lose their ability to seek workers’ compensation benefits.
- Follow up with a company-approved doctor – In a workers’ compensation claim, an employer or their insurance provider will provide a list of approved doctors or may allow a worker to see their own doctor. It is critical to seek medical care from an approved doctor so a workers’ compensation claim will be approved.
- Carefully fill out all forms – The workers’ compensation process is filled with forms and paperwork. It is critical to pay close attention to these forms and to fill them out fully and accurately so a worker receives their due benefits.
- Contact a Charleston lawyer – A workers’ compensation lawyer can be a critical resource. They can provide guidance and help ensure a worker is abiding by all of the requirements in a workers’ compensation case.
Consult With a Seasoned Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Regardless of your legal status, workers’ compensation for undocumented immigrants in Charleston is available. Since these benefits can cover a variety of costs, they may be a valuable resource while recovering from an injury. Consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer to learn your legal rights as an illegal alien and options for financial recovery under the South Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act.