Employment comes in multiple forms across all industries, but most workers fall into two categories. They are either independent contractors or employees dependent on orders from the primary business generator and management. Although many businesses attempt to insulate themselves from liability and responsibility in certain aspects of conducting business by requiring independent contractor employment arrangements, the truth is that the real issue is the nature of the business relationship. There are certain positions of authority that employers demand within the relationship, and most times this makes even a perceived independent contractor an employee within the legal definition of the term. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can prove this relationship.
Reasoning Behind The Status of Independent Contractor
The two main issues of concern when a primary contracting agent wants independent workers are responsibility and liability. Potential personal injuries are central to both. While financial responsibility for specific work can also be a legal issue as well, the first goal is avoiding an expensive personal injury claim while also avoiding carrying workers’ compensation insurance. This is not necessarily a legal arrangement in some cases of personal injury, and often an independent contractor can file an injury claim either through the workers’ compensation board or in a standard state court. All workers generally have a right to sue for an injury just as a common citizen would have with a premises liability claim unless there are valid documented contracts with signatures stating the responsibility and liability of each contracting agent. And even then, a contract could be found unenforceable by a workers’ comp attorney when all material evidence is evaluated.
The Independent Contractor Defense
Claiming an injured employee is an independent contractor is actually a defense to any injury claim, and it is established even before the employment relationship begins. The initial employing actor demands that the applicant accept the position working under the condition of personal assumption of risk in the process of discharging their duties. An experienced workers’ comp attorney could claim that this demand alone could justify a claim of coercion when the employer is openly accepting applications for contracting agents. The nature of the relationship of the job advertiser and the responding parties is still that of an employer and employee. However, there are certain situations when a worker could be considered an independent contractor. Those include:
- Claimant provides their own work equipment
- Claimant has authority to hire other workers
- Claimant has authority to set work hours
- Claimant works for other contractors
When an Independent Contractor Could be an Employee
There are many injury situations when a perceived independent contractor could be determined an employee by the court system, including the workers’ compensation system. Even when some conditions exist that would establish an injured worker as an independent contractor, every detail can have a possible impact on a ruling from the court or workers’ comp agency. Even something as minor as training a worker on specifics of the job can establish an employee status relationship, and especially when tools and work materials are provided to complete any assignment. While this typically happens most often in the construction industry, other professions were this could occur include:
- Truck drivers
- Commercial sales agents
- Newspaper delivery drivers
- Food service delivery drivers
- Taxi cab drivers
When the Difference in Legal Standing May Not Matter
Workers’ compensation insurance is designed to benefit both the employer and the employee regardless of their work status. It is essentially a no-fault system unless a worker is impaired when injured on the job. State courts still implement the contributory negligence law of 1% personal fault for a financial recovery bar in personal injury cases. The courts in all formats realize that some unscrupulous employers and their insurance providers want to skirt the law with respect to liability, and many employers just merely want to avoid maintaining workers’ compensation insurance protection. An experienced workers’ comp attorney understands this perception as well, and especially when an employer could be found totally negligent in a personal injury claim. Even when work performance is compartmentalized, some entity must be responsible for maintaining a safe work environment and ensure that all OSHA rules and regulations are met. Workers’ compensation benefits only include financial recovery for medical bills and replacement of lost wages during the term of the injury, and some injuries can result in disability. Injuries that could qualify the injured worker for a standard personal injury claim could also include compensation for long-term impact of the injury, also known as general damages or pain-and-suffering awards.
So, can contractors claim’ workers comp when they have been injured on the job? The truth is that the details of how the injury occurred is crucial along with the nature of the employment relationship, but documentation could establish the fact that the injury occurred under unlawful or negligent conditions. An aggressive workers compensation lawyer will investigate all material evidence and build a case for maximum damages when negligence can be proven. Anyone who is injured at work should consider the possibility of filing a workers’ compensation claim.