3 Instances When You May Be Eligible For Worker's Compensation As A Contract Worker

While worker's compensation insurance benefits are widely known to only be available to workers legally designated as employees of company they are seeking compensation from, there are instances when contract workers, also known as freelance workers, are eligible for these benefits when injured at the site of a job they are performing. While some of the instances depend widely on the laws of the specific state you live and work in, others rely on federal standards. Read on to find out when and why you may be eligible for worker's compensation when contract work goes wrong. 

1. You Were Mis-Classified as a Contractor (Applies To All States)

Just because you consider yourself a contract worker and pay self-employment taxes does not mean that it is impossible for you to perform similar duties to an employee when performing work for a client or company. Legally, your title doesn't matter when it comes to receiving workers compensation. Whether you are acting as an employee or contractor is what does matter. 

Some signs that you are acting as a company employee rather than a contractor, no matter what your official job title or contract states, include:

  1. You are paid by the hour or receive a salary. 
  2. The client or company you are working for instructs you on how to do the job and what equipment to use to do it. 
  3. The company is supplying the equipment you use to perform the job. 
  4. You are working for the company or client for a lengthy period of time, especially if  the company dictates your work schedule. 

Your worker/client relationship doesn't have to meet all of the criteria above for you to be performing as an employee and not a contractor, but these are some of the major signs that you truly are an employee in the eyes of the law. If a judge decides you were acting as an employee when injured, you may be eligible for worker's compensation that any other company employee would receive. 

2. You Are Being Paid for Work Over a Certain Monetary Value (In Some States)

In some states, if you are injured when performing contract work valued over a certain dollar amount, both you and the client/company who hired you are co-liable for any injuries you incur while performing the job. For example, in Indiana, if you are being paid over $1,000 for a job or project, both you and the company or client are both liable for the injuries, which means your payment loss of income, medical bills, and other costs/losses incurred due to an injury on the job should be split between your company liability insurance company and the worker' s compensation company of the client you are performing the work for. Even if your monetary payment is under $1,000 and you are also being paid in goods, if the value of both the money you are paid and the value of the goods you are receiving as additional compensation meet this threshold, the company that hired you is still co-liable for your injury compensation. 

3. A Company Hired You and Knew You Didn't Have Liability Insurance for Yourself And/Or Your Workers (In Most States)

If you are performing work that you know can be hazardous and especially if you have a crew that helps you complete the job, then it is important to have liability insurance in case anyone gets hurt on the job. However, it is also important for every client/company that hires you to check to make sure that you have this important insurance coverage. If you don't have it and are still hired to complete the work, whether the client just never asked about it or knew you didn't have it, they are liable for any injuries that occur to you or your workers during the course of completing the job. 

While this doesn't mean you should cancel your liability insurance for you and your crew if you have it, it does mean that you my have a worker's compensation case you didn't realize you qualified for. 

If you were injured during the course of performing contract work or want to be prepared in case you ever are, then keep these guidelines in mind. Many contract workers never even consider looking into a worker's compensation claim, because they think that they don't qualify just because they don't receive a W-2 at the end of the year. If you are currently injured, then speak to a good worker's compensation attorney to see if you may be eligible for benefits you didn't know you were. 

For more information, contact a practice like Gilbert, Blaszcyk & Milburn LLP