Workers’ compensation provides financial relief for employees injured on the job. However, not all workplace injuries involve full-time employees. If you’re an independent contractor injured while working, you may wonder whether you can receive workers’ comp benefits. While North Carolina law doesn’t require employers to carry workers’ comp insurance for independent contractors, you may still qualify. Your employer and their insurance company may fight your claim and argue that your independent contractor status disqualifies you from workers’ compensation. It’s essential to consult with a North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney if you are an independent contractor and suffer an injury while on the job.
Independent Contractors vs. Full-Time Employees
According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), an independent contractor controls what work will be performed and how somebody will do it. Independent contractors are self-employed and generally have more flexibility than employees. They are colloquially referred to as 1099 workers because they report income through IRS Form 1099 instead of the W-2 used by employees. However, there are significant trade-offs. Independent contractors are often ineligible for healthcare and retirement benefits and may not be subject to overtime and minimum wage laws. State law makes workers’ compensation benefits more complex for independent contractors. North Carolina requires any business with three or more employees to obtain coverage, but they aren’t required to cover independent contractors. You may think that independent contractors are automatically out of luck after a workplace incident, but that isn’t the case.
While many independent contractor relationships are legitimate, employers sometimes misclassify employees to avoid paying benefits and carrying proper insurance. 1099 employees are cheaper for businesses to hire, which can be enticing for a business owner looking to cut costs. As a worker, you may not know the difference. If your employer tells you you’re an independent contractor, you’re inclined to believe them — but you should know the differences.
Who Qualifies As An Independent Contractor?
As we’ve covered, giving employees a 1099 form doesn’t automatically mean they’re independent contractors. The North Carolina Industrial Commission details its view on independent contractors on its website. An excerpt is below.
“An employer is not relieved of its liability under the Act by calling its employees’ independent contractors.’ Even if the employer refers to its workers as independent contractors and issues a Form 1099 for tax purposes, the Industrial Commission may still find that the workers were, in fact, employees based upon its analysis of several factors, including but not limited to the degree of control exercised by the employer over the details of the work.”
Determining whether a worker is an independent contractor involves several factors and can be challenging. Even if an employer asserts that they shouldn’t have to provide workers’ compensation coverage to a contractor, the state may find that a purported independent contractor met the requirements for an employee. The contractor would be eligible for benefits under North Carolina workers’ compensation law in this case. A central factor is the control a principal has over the contractor. It may be an employer-employee relationship if they set the contractor’s schedule or dictate how much work they can do for others.
According to the North Carolina Department of Labor, determining whether a contractor qualifies as an employee depends on various factors. There’s no single test to decide; instead, several questions must be considered. Are the services that the contractor provides essential to the business’s operations? Has the contractor invested in equipment and facilities? Is the working relationship permanent and continuous, or is it periodic? These are just a few of the standards the U.S. Supreme Court set forward.
Do I Need A Workers’ Comp Attorney?
After a workplace injury, independent contractors should report the incident to the contracted business. But they should know they’ll likely face pushback from the company. They may even try to force the contractor to sign documents relieving them of all responsibility. Hiring a workers’ comp lawyer is essential for any injured independent contractor. An attorney can examine the details of your working relationship and help determine whether you are an employee or an independent contractor. If your workers’ comp claim is rejected, a lawyer can help appeal the decision and file a workers’ comp lawsuit if necessary. Workers’ compensation covers your medical expenses and helps reimburse some of your lost wages. It can be a huge benefit, which is why you should fight to receive it.
If you’re a North Carolina independent contractor injured on the job, call the Whitley Law Firm today at (800) 785-5000 or fill out our online contact form for a free case evaluation. North Carolina workers’ comp law is complex, but you don’t have to figure it out yourself. Contact us today, and we’ll assist you in getting the help you need.
The Whitley Law Firm is a family affair—in all the ways that matter. Partner Ben Whitley works with his father and brother to create a formidable force when representing clients. After all, helping injured individuals—people who have the deck stacked against them when fighting corporations—is why the Whitleys got into the business in the first place.