When someone is hired as a contractor and they get injured, they often wonder if they are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately, employers are not required by state law to obtain workers’ comp coverage for independent contractors, so they are usually not able to get these benefits. However, this does not mean that independent contractors have no options for getting reimbursed for their injuries.
First of all, it may be possible that the injured worker was misclassified as an independent contractor and is actually an employee. Companies may do this to avoid having to pay payroll taxes and workers’ comp premiums for these workers. Secondly, even if a worker is correctly classified as an independent contractor, they may still be able to recover compensation if they can prove that their injuries were caused by another party’s negligence.
When is an Independent Contractor an Employee?
It is important to understand that a worker is not an independent contractor simply because the company they are working for says so. This classification is determined by IRS rules, and a worker must meet certain criteria to fall into this category:
One of the key factors in determining whether someone is an employee or independent contractor is how much control the company has over their work. Employees generally have managers/supervisors who direct how and when the work is to be done.
Independent contractors work independently and without direct supervision from a company representative. The company hires them to do a job, but they do not tell them how to get the job done. In addition, an independent contractor can generally work for multiple companies unless they sign an exclusive agreement. An employee, on the other hand, would not usually be allowed to work for a competitor because of a conflict of interest.
Independent contractors are generally paid by the job while employees are usually paid on an hourly or salaried basis. A contractor could bill the company for their hourly work, but this is usually done by their own choice.
Use of Tools and Equipment
An independent contractor will generally use their own equipment while an employee uses equipment provided by the company. For example, a plumber or electrician brings in their own tools and equipment when they come in to do work on a building.
Type of Work Performed
Independent contractors are generally skilled workers who perform a specialized task for a company, and as mentioned earlier, they are usually free to perform this work for other companies as well. An employee often performs multiple tasks for the same company.
If a worker who is classified as an independent contractor actually meets the definition of an employee, then they can file a claim for workers’ compensation if they get hurt on the job. This claim will almost certainly be disputed by the employer, however, and the final determination will most likely be made by the state workers’ comp board. In circumstances like these, it is very important to have strong legal counsel in your corner advocating aggressively for your rights and interests.
Legal Options for Independent Contractors Who Get Injured
If you do happen to meet the definition of an independent contractor and you get hurt on the job, the next step is to talk with a skilled personal injury lawyer about your case. Although you may not be eligible for workers’ compensation, if another party was responsible for your injuries, you might be able to file a claim against them for damages.
Damages from a personal injury lawsuit may include reimbursement not only for direct economic losses such as medical bills and lost earnings, but also for noneconomic losses such as physical and emotional pain and suffering and diminished quality of life.
There are a number of different parties that could potentially be liable when an independent contractor suffers an injury. These include:
- The company that hired the contractor.
- The owner or caretaker of the property in which the contractor got hurt.
- The driver of another vehicle if the driver was responsible for an auto accident.
- The manufacturer, supplier, or distributor of a defective or dangerous product that caused the injury.
Speak to an Experienced Alabama Workplace Injury Lawyer
If you or someone close to you got injured while working as an independent contractor in Alabama, Burge & Burge is ready to go to work for you. We have extensive experience handling all types of workplace injury claims, and we can help you determine the most appropriate legal avenue toward recovering compensation in your case.
To get started, call our office today at 205-251-9000 or message us online for a free consultation with a member of our legal team.