Most employees in the state of Pennsylvania are covered by workers’ compensation insurance. This means that if an employee suffers a work-related injury or illness, their employer’s workers’ comp policy should cover their medical expenses, a percentage of their lost wages, and some other costs. But what if you are an independent contractor?
Are independent contractors eligible for workers’ comp benefits in Pennsylvania? The short answer to this question is “no”. But this does not mean that there are no legal remedies available for those who fall into this category. Additionally, some workers are misclassified and designated as independent contractors when in fact they meet the definition of an employee.
When is Someone an Independent Contractor in Pennsylvania?
A worker is not an independent contractor simply because the company that hires them says that this is the case. This question is answered largely by the type of working relationship the individual has with the company as well as some other factors.
In 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court clarified the criteria that must be met for a worker to be considered an independent contractor. In A Special Touch v. Commonwealth of Pa., the court ruled that in order to overcome the presumption that a worker that was providing services to a company is an employee, the company must show:
- The individual is regularly engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business; and
- The individual is free from the company’s direction and control.
The first point has to do with the type of work that the individual performs, and the industry in which they are in. In general, independent contractors are highly skilled workers that are hired to perform specialized tasks for a company. Examples would include electricians, plumbers, installers, and other skilled trades.
One good indication that someone might fall into the category of an independent contractor is if they use their own tools and equipment to do their work. These individuals would usually also be free to work for other companies, even if they chose to work for one company exclusively. They typically have business cards and they often advertise their services to the public.
The second point has to do with how an individual performs their work. With an independent contractor, the company hires them to obtain a desired result, but they do not direct and control how they will do the work that is needed to get the result. Employees, on the other hand, usually have managers or supervisors who oversee their work, keep track of their hours, etc.
Legal Options When an Independent Contractor Gets Injured
When someone is injured in the workplace and the company defines them as an independent contractor, the first thing to do is check and see if they are misclassified. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can review the case and the work relationship to help in determining this. If the worker is truly an employee, then your lawyer can help you pursue a workers’ comp claim.
If your status as an independent contractor is correct, this does not mean that you are left out in the cold. Although you may not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, you might be able to file a personal injury claim if someone else was responsible for your injury.
For example, if you were making a delivery for the company and another vehicle crashed into yours, then you can file an accident injury claim against the at fault driver. Or if the injury happened because of some machinery that malfunctioned, you may be able to file a product liability claim against the manufacturer, supplier, or distributor of the faulty product.
If it turns out that you have a viable personal injury case, you can pursue damages not only for direct monetary losses such as medical bills and lost earnings, but also for non-economic losses such as physical and emotional pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, and permanent injury.
Contact an Experienced Pittsburgh Workplace Injury Attorney
If you got injured while working as an independent contractor, it is best to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights and options. If the injury happened in Pennsylvania, contact Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman for skilled legal guidance. Call our office today at 412-567-1232 or toll-free at 866-466-5789 or message us online for a free consultation and case assessment with one of our attorneys.