With a new outlook for 2017’s economy and a landscape about to change, business owners are anticipating some major changes, and many may be looking to see if the answer to an age-old question is going to change: Are Independent Contractors covered under Workers’ Compensation Laws?
Independent Contractors are not covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act. To qualify for Workers’ Compensation benefits, an injured worker must be an employee.
However, one’s status as an employee or Independent Contractor is often unclear. And this is why that question gets asked time and time again – leading to lawsuits. Misclassification of employee status is the most common way an Independent Contractor ends up in court over Workers’ Compensation.
So What is an Employee?
An employee refers to a worker who is under the direct control of a business who pays income taxes, withholds and pays Social Security and Medicare taxes, and also pays an unemployment tax on wages.
What is an Independent Contractor?
An Independent Contractor is wholly responsible for paying all of those taxes and will be required to submit a signed W-9. The form is an acknowledgment that he or she is, in fact, an independent contractor and not an employee of the company.
However, the form itself does not override the actual relationship between the contractor and the employer. Often, there is a misclassification of a contractor who is, in fact, acting as an employee. Possibly for financial and legal reasons, the employer is misrepresenting the employee as an Independent Contractor.
If an employer exercises the same control over the independent contractor as an employee, workers’ compensation benefits may be applied.
If there is any doubt, it is crucial to speak to a legal professional who specializes in this area of Workers’ Compensation law. An experienced attorney will assess the legalities of the worker’s relationship to the business that paid for the work, and whether a favorable workers’ compensation outcome is likely.
What Type of Injuries Are Covered under Workers’ Compensation?
Under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act, all work-related injuries and occupational diseases are covered. This distinction is not as straightforward as it sounds. There are several classifications and even mixed classifications of work-related injuries.
- Sudden injuries from a work-related accident or event
- Injuries that develop gradually
- Prior industrial injuries covered by workers compensation that recur or become aggravated
- Pre-existing conditions directly related to the industrial injury
- Pre-existing conditions unrelated to the industrial injury
- Multiple injuries
For example, work that requires manual labor may cause a lower back injury. Manual labor may aggravate a prior industrial injury of the lower back. The same manual labor may aggravate a related preexisting back condition. Or one’s labor may affect an unrelated preexisting illness, such as a heart condition.
There are an infinite number of scenarios like the aforementioned but ultimately, what qualifies as a workers’ compensation case depends on whether one’s current injury is work-related and incurred as an employee, not as an independent contractor.
Prior injuries that occurred under a different employer may have been covered by workers’ compensation. The injury may recur or become aggravated under different employment in the future. Benefits can be reinstated, but there may a reduction in the amount paid out. Preexisting conditions unrelated to work may become an issue.
These are complex legal matters which should be carefully discussed with a qualified Worker’s Compensation attorney experienced in this area, as well as with a medical physician experienced in work-related injuries.
Above all, one should not make a determination based on what an employer says. Independent contractors are especially encouraged to call an attorney and have their employment status assessed.
Contact Us Today
Email or call Krasno, Krasno & Onwudinjo at 877-794-2396, to schedule a free consultation. One of our highly experienced workers’ compensation attorneys will explain the claims process from beginning to end. Our attorneys work on a contingency basis, so if you don’t get paid, we don’t get paid.