Workers comp claims cost Horry County taxpayers millions

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Horry County leaders say one of their biggest expenses over the last few years has been workers comp claims. The county is paying millions of dollars because of increased insurance rates from hundreds of claims.

Experts say 2015 was the worst year because of several accidents involving public safety employees. Officials say that one bad year increased insurance premiums and cost taxpayers millions.

In 2015, Horry County had 261 workers comp claims, costing the county $2.6 million.

“We had some expensive accidents because it’s not only how many accidents you have, it’s the intensity of them or how bad they are,” said Johnny Vaught, Horry County Councilman.

Most of those expenses involved public safety employees, with police and fire workers topping the charts.  The premium rate went from .68 before the 2015 accidents to a 1.11 rate for 2018.

“Comp claims is always a big issue that we have, especially in the public safety division, number one because of the job that they do, but also because of the number of employees and vehicles that we have out on the street as well,” Lisa Bourcier, Horry County Spokesperson said.

County council Chairman Mark Lazarus says most of the claims involve someone driving a county vehicle. Two ambulance crashes in the previous fiscal year are still making the county pay higher premiums, but he’s hoping to change that.

“We’re going back to driver’s ed. We’re going to training and sometimes it’s just simple things like remembering that you need to look before you back up, you know, we can go back to the old pilon system where we’re going to embarrass you and you got to go put the pilon out and remember to pick it up before you get back in your car,” Mark Lazarus, Horry County Council Chairman.

Lazarus says they’re increasing driving training and asking for updates to comp claims at every public safety meeting and for the most part claims for this fiscal year are down compared to last.

“All in all, we need to make sure that everybody just remembers to pay attention when you’re driving a company vehicle,” said Lazarus.

County spokesperson Lisa Bourcier says on top of stepping up driving training, they’re also increasing training efforts for equipment for several departments in the county.

She says their risk management department is handling that training and working with department heads on ways to bring down those worker comp claims.