Can an employer withhold wages for damages done during and accident but that insurance covers?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can an employer withhold wages for damages done during and accident but that insurance covers?

I was a tow truck driver here in charleston South carolina and was recently cut off by a car and hit them in the rear end passenger side, I was going only 29 in a 45 but was told I was going to fast for conditions and in south carolina it doesn’t matter if I was cut off and didn’t have time to react, if you rear end someone it’s automatically your fault. Now not only did I get fired but my employer will not give me my last check. Their insurance is covering all the damage to their tow truck and the other vehicles involved but my employer is still withholding my paycheck and refusing to pay me. Are they aloud to do that?

Asked on June 25, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, South Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

No, they cannot do this: the law is very clear that employee pay may not be withheld even if the employee owes the employer money (see below) without employee consent (agreement) to the withholding or a court order (such as for court-ordered wage garnishment). You could sue them (e.g. in small claims court) for your wage.
Note however that they could countersue you for any amounts (costs to repair; tickets; etc.) they incur due to you being at fault if those costs are not covered by their insurance--that is, if you sue them, they could countersue you for the deductible. They can only sue for uncovered costs; they can't sue to recover any amounts paid by insurance. When you are considered or deemed to be at fault in an accident, you are liable for any losses you cause.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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