Bills changing the state’s workers’ compensation laws have been introduced in the South Carolina House and Senate.
Changes to the state’s system for paying for worker on-the-job injuries is a top issue for businesses as they face higher rates.
On Thursday, Gov. Mark Sanford made stops in Greenville and Charleston to build support for the changes. He said in a statement that businesses “simply cannot sustain the current trend of increases in workers’ compensation premiums.”
Among other things, both versions of the legislation call for:
* Stop new claims by 2010 for injuries that occur before July 1, 2007, at the Second Injury Fund, a program intended to help employers hire workers with past injuries or disabilities.
* New caps on lawyers fees that would lower compensation. At most they would get 20 percent of awards of $5,000 or less and their fees would fall to 5 percent of awards for permanent total disability.
* Disability awards could no longer be influenced by a person’s age, education or the type of work they do.
Belinda Ellison, a Lexington lawyer handling workers’ compensation cases, said the legislation has plenty of problems. For instance, doing away with the Second Injury Fund would make it tougher for employers to hire Iraq war veterans with injuries, she said.
“This particular legislation is, at a minimum, bad public policy and, at a maximum, morally reprehensible,” she said.
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