Risks of "Independent Contractor Game" and Workers Compensation

If an employer hires a worker as an independent contractor just to save on workers compensation premiums, injuries on the job can cause serious legal issues.

Are you really an independent contractor or are you an employee? Most "Independent Contractors" don't care about the answer to this question unless they are hurt on the job and have no insurance to pay the hospital bill, or savings to pay the mortgage on their home. The high cost of workers compensation insurance has led some employers in to hire "independent contractors" to do the work of employees. Too frequently, the individual who does the work is really not an "independent contractor; he is an independent contractor in name only. When this happens, the "employer" has violated the law and left his business and himself individually exposed to liability if the worker is injured.

Employment Term by "Nature of the Work"

Avoiding workers comp premiums by hiring employees as "independent contractors" does not work if the "nature of the work" being performed is the same as an employee would perform. Even if the employer and employee have a written agreement establishing an independent contractor relationship, the courts will find otherwise unless the facts of the relationship satisfy the "nature of the work" test. Agreements which violate the law are unenforceable.

Employer Liability for Injuries and Employee Options to Sue

When an employee/employer relationship exists and workers compensation insurance has not been purchased, the employer faces many very serious consequences, not the least of which is criminal liability for violating the law and civil liability for workers compensation benefits due an injured employee. Moreover, the injured worker has the option of suing the uninsured employer for negligence, and standard comparative negligence defenses are unavailable. Also, the laws which limit non-economic damages do not apply to protect an uninsured employer. Thus, the absence of worker's compensation insurance can have huge consequences to the employer.

Of course, the lack of workers compensation insurance will have a huge consequence to an injured worker too. Without medical coverage and time loss benefits, the injured worker is often in dire financial straits and deep in debt immediately after he is injured. Without the money to pay for food and rent and medical bills, the worker must seek public assistance or be homeless.

If you are seriously hurt and you are an independent contractor in name only, you should contact an attorney about pursuing legal action against your employer to protect your rights. After all, unless you take steps to protect yourself, you will be without the benefits which the law guarantees you. And, if you are the employer of an injured "independent contractor in name only" you should be contacting a lawyer to help you figure out how best to protect yourself from all of the adverse consequences which will befall an uninsured employer whose employee has been injured.

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