When reading this, please be aware that many “independent contractors” are, in fact, employees, who are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, or are otherwise eligible. If you have been told by your employer that you are an independent contractor, you should contact a qualified workers’ compensation lawyer, to make sure that that is true. While many misclassified workers have coverage through non-workers’ compensation “occupational accident” insurance policies, those polices generally do not provide benefits that are as good as workers’ compensation.
When, for example, working as a truck driver, you may not always be an employee of the company for which you work. In some cases, the company may categorize you as an independent contractor. It is essential that you understand whether you are an employee or an independent contractor when it comes to applying for workers’ compensation benefits because your status will determine if you qualify for benefits.
In general, workers’ compensation does not provide coverage for independent contractors as a contractor is a separate business entity.
However, the North Carolina Industrial Commission explains that in some cases, the use of the title independent contractor is not valid when it comes to workers’ compensation. The Commission will consider how much control your company has over your work duties and details, along with other factors. It may determine that while the company calls you an independent contractor, you qualify as an employee under workers’ compensation. Therefore, your employer would have to provide you with benefits.
The experience at Jay Gervasi, P.A. has been that in the vast majority of cases in which injured employees are told that they are independent contractors, proper analysis under the law indicates that they are employees, eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Even if it appears that an immediate employer has no workers’ compensation insurance coverage, and even if there is a question as to whether that employer is itself an independent contractor, there is a section of the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act that provides for coverage by general contractors and intermediate subcontractors of workers farther down the stream of contracts. While this is complicated, it can provide access to an employer with coverage or enough money of its own to protect the injured worker.
It is important that you understand the responsibilities of your employer under workers’ compensation. You also need to understand the legal difference between an employee and an independent contractor. Knowing this information will help you to ensure that should you suffer an on-the-job injury that you can get compensation to which the law entitles you. If you have any questions about that, you should contact a qualified worker’s compensation lawyer, before you assume that you are not entitled to benefits.