The number of people working as independent contractors in the United States is increasing. In fact, as much as one-third of the workforce now participates in this gig economy.
Being self-employed, independent contractors are typically not eligible for certain benefits like health insurance, unemployment, and workers' compensation. But if you were injured on the job and meet the requirements of a legal employee, then you may have grounds for a claim. Here’s what you should know.
Documenting Workplace Injuries as a Contractor
Depending on the nature of your work, your employer may or may not create their own records of your workplace accident. Injuries involving company property, for example, are typically documented for insurance purposes. On the other hand, if you were negligently exposed to harmful substances, then the business may not be eager to start filing paperwork.
Like any workers' compensation claim, compile documented evidence as soon as you suspect you will need legal assistance. Make note of, and preferably photograph, unsafe working conditions and keep copies of communications between you and the company. All of these add credibility to a claim.
As an independent contractor, you should also document your work hours, tasks, pay, and duties for each business you work with. This is not only a good business practice, but it lays out your relationship with employers in concrete terms. Misclassified contractors often become obvious through careful recordkeeping.
Bringing Your Case to an Attorney
Independent contractors are free to choose their own work and clients, but they are responsible for their own insurance and savings in emergencies. This puts many injured contractors in a difficult position. In these situations, the most important step you can take is to explore your rights as a worker. This is best accomplished with the expertise of a workers' compensation attorney.
Determining Your Legal Employment Status
The major difference between employees and contractors is degrees of independence. Employees typically show up to work at a specific time, work a set number of hours, and accept tasks within a company hierarchy. They can be fired for failing to work normal business hours and use company equipment. They receive wages with taxes withheld, rather than being paid like a small business.
This arrangement can be beneficial for both parties. But some businesses hire independent contractors with the expectation that they will perform the role of an employee — without any of the benefits. An experienced workers' compensation attorney knows how to spot a misclassified contractor and will walk you through the legal requirements to prove your real employment status.
Considering Additional Employment Claims
Once you have shown that you qualify as an employee, you should consider the implications beyond your workers' compensation case. You may be entitled to additional benefits from your time spent working as a misclassified contractor. Unemployment, vacation days, health insurance, and overtime pay may all be available to you.
Your attorney will go over the details of your employment period to understand what you should have received as an employee in the same role. If you can show that your employer intentionally misclassified you, it is also possible to sue for punitive damages. All of these allow you to recover the rights and benefits you were legally owed and denied.
Pressing a Workers' Compensation Claim
Well-founded claims then move on to legal action. In most cases, both employers and wronged contractors prefer to reach a settlement out of court. Your attorney will negotiate on your behalf to ensure that you receive a fair deal for your pain, suffering, and medical expenses.
Don't let an employer's legal negligence deny you the care and support you need. Contact us at Stafford, Neal & Soule, S.C. to learn more about your options.