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How do workers’ compensation guidelines define an independent contractor?

If you work in any field and are classified as an independent contractor, you should understand that you won't be covered by an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. Even in dangerous jobs such as roofing, building, road construction, and warehouse work, if you're not a regular employee, your injuries and illnesses won't be covered by workers’ comp insurance. However, many workers are classified as independent contractors when they shouldn't be. Learn more about work status classification and your right to benefits, including workers’ comp.

What Is an Independent Contractor?

While employers in many industries are happy to hire workers as contractors, it may not always be legal. There are strict guidelines for classification as a contract worker, and many employers are in violation of these guidelines. Hiring a worker as a contractor saves the employer a great deal of money in state and federal taxes and in workers’ comp insurance premiums. Even if you're desperate for work and happy with the pay rate, you should understand when you're truly an independent contractor and when you're not.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, an independent contractor meets all of the following requirements:

  • Does the same work for multiple employers
  • Has his own tools and equipment and can hire, supervise, and pay assistants
  • Can make a profit or suffer a loss
  • Sets his own hours and work schedule
  • Has a business license

A traditional employee, on the other hand, fits the following description:

  • Has a continuing relationship with an employer
  • Is furnished equipment and supplies by the employer
  • Can quit at any time without incurring liability
  • Must comply with instructions about how, when, and where to work
  • Is trained by the employer

If, according to these definitions, you're truly a self-employed independent contractor, then you won't be eligible for workers’ comp benefits if you're injured on the job, or made ill due to exposure to something at work. If this happens in the course of your employment, you should be covered by your health insurance, assuming you have it.

However, being an independent contractor doesn't prohibit you from seeking compensation if your injury or illness was caused by the employer’s negligence. In fact, in this case, you have an advantage over a traditional employee.

Suing an Employer for Negligence

work injury claimRegular employees covered by workers’ compensation insurance are prohibited by law from suing an employer for damages for a workplace injury or illness. Workers’ comp benefits are awarded to an injured worker no matter who's at fault.

However, independent contractors aren't limited in the same way. If you're injured on a construction site, for example, due to faulty equipment or a lack of worker protections and you're an independent contractor, you may be able to sue the employer. Most companies carry liability policies of at least $1 million, but can be compelled to pay even more in damages if your injuries require it.

Determining Your Status

Before you're in a situation where you're seeking damages for an injury, make sure you're legally classified in your workplace. Filing a workers’ comp claim is much easier than suing an employer for negligence, so if your work relationship and job duties indicate that you're indeed a regular employee, approach your employer as soon as you discover the error—don't wait until you're already injured or require some other guaranteed benefit. Employers who classify workers illegally can face considerable tax penalties, and should be motivated to correct the situation.

If you're legitimately an independent contractor, make sure you have adequate health insurance to cover any potential workplace injuries. You may also consider purchasing accident insurance to ensure full coverage for medical costs and lost wages.

We Can Help With Your Workers’ Comp Claim

If you have a legitimate workers’ compensation claim and it's been denied by your employer, our workers’ comp attorneys may be able to help. Connect with us through the link on this page for more information.

 

James Roswold
James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.

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