In certain cases, independent contractors can get workers’ compensation benefits if they are hurt on the job. A contractor’s eligibility may depend on:
- What type of injury they suffered
- What duty they were performing when the injury occurred, or what types of duties they are called on to perform generally
- How closely the business monitors their work
Certain Businesses Must Provide Workers’ Compensation
According to the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC), the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act requires all businesses with three or more employees to carry workers’ compensation coverage. Workers’ compensation for independent contractors is not included in this law.
However, what defines a worker as an employee is based on many factors, not just this one Act. The NCIC may determine that independent contractors are, in fact, employees, even if their employer designates them as independent contractors to avoid having to make workers’ compensation insurance payments on their behalf.
The Independent Contractor Issue
Employees tend to be more expensive than independent contractors because:
- They are entitled to workers’ compensation coverage.
- Employers must also pay payroll taxes for their employees and make certain contributions to the state’s unemployment insurance program.
- Employers must comply with many different federal and state laws that pertain to employees.
Some employers try to bypass these costs of doing business by designating certain workers as independent contractors, even though they perform essentially the same tasks as regular employees. The employer might even provide these workers with a 1099 tax form so that the independent contractor can report non-wage, salary, and tip income as miscellaneous income for IRS tax purposes.
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When Independent Contractors Can Get Workers’ Compensation
Per the NCIC, employers do not absolve themselves of their obligation to provide workers’ compensation to their employees by simply designating them as independent contractors.
It is common for the NCIC to determine how workers should be classified on a case-by-case basis. The ultimate determinant of whether an independent contractor is entitled to workers’ compensation often comes down to how much control the employer has over the worker’s job tasks. To make this determination, the NCIC may look at:
- Whether the worker or workers are engaged in independent work of their own
- Whether the employer has exclusive access to the skills, knowledge, or training of the worker in their line of work
- Whether the work performed is compensated on a regular basis, in lump sum form, or using some other form of regular or irregular remuneration
- Whether the worker is typically retained and not discharged after the completion of agreed-upon tasks
- Whether the employer can use the talents and skills of the worker in other areas of the business or on other projects on an as-needed basis
- How much control the employer has over the work performed by the worker in terms of compensation, time spent on work, and the worker’s flexibility to engage in work elsewhere
Based on an investigation by the NCIC, a worker classified as an independent contractor can get workers’ compensation benefits if they meet the definition of an “employee.”
Buying Your Own Insurance
If you are an independent contractor or a sole proprietor, another way to ensure you get the money you need is to purchase insurance for yourself. Personal health insurance policies typically do not cover work-related accidents and injuries, but you can purchase coverage for work- or job-related accidents, even if you work alone or as a contractor. That way, you are covered in the event of a work-related mishap.
What Workers’ Compensation for Contractors Includes
Suppose the NCIC decides that a particular contractor is eligible for benefits and the worker has filed a workplace injury claim. In that case, the employer may be forced to pay workers’ compensation benefits. The employer would be obligated to cover the worker until they can return to work or all applicable compensatory damages are met. Compensatory damages may include the following.
Lost Wage Payments
You can be compensated for up to two-thirds of your average weekly wage. This compensation starts once you have missed seven workdays. If you miss more than 21 days, you can also be compensated for the first seven days you missed.
This includes any treatment your provider deems necessary for your recovery, as well as certain travel expenses related to receiving medical treatment.
If it is determined that you are entitled to workers’ compensation, but your employer did not agree to pay for your medical treatment, you may still be able to obtain the compensation you need. However, you should request approval from the NCIC first.
Temporary or Permanent Disability
You can receive weekly wage and temporary disability benefits only until you can return to work. However, you may receive permanent disability payments if you suffered a total or partial disability. To have a total or partial disability, you must have lost the use of a body part or function such as:
- An amputated digit or limb
- Organ damage
- A back injury
- Hearing loss
This loss must prohibit you from earning the same wages you used to earn before the injury. The NCIC determines whether a given disability qualifies as a permanent partial or total disability.
If your injury caused severe scarring, especially to the head or face, you could be eligible for benefits on that basis, subject to a doctor’s approval.
If an independent contractor passes away before they can seek workers’ compensation benefits, their survivors may be able to collect on their behalf. This includes death benefits, which help to ease the financial burden after the sudden loss of a provider.
What If I Have Trouble Getting My Benefits?
If an employer refuses to acknowledge a valid claim, they must notify the NCIC, the claimant, or the claimant’s attorney of the reason for the denial. Eligible employees or contractors may request a hearing with the NCIC by submitting a Request for Hearing form, at which point the Commission will:
- Investigate the case
- Send the case to mediation, if applicable
- Hear your case if mediation fails and come to a determination about your claim
A workers’ compensation attorney can help you understand and navigate the claims process, to include determining your eligibility for benefits, filing all forms on time, and representing you at hearings or meetings.
Contact Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC Today
Contact Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC today at (828) 286-3866 for a free case evaluation. If you work as an independent contractor but perform tasks and duties in line with full-time employees, you might be entitled to get workers’ compensation benefits. Call us any time, day or night, to discuss your case.