In New York, workers who are hurt on the job or who are diagnosed with a work-related illness may be entitled to benefits through workers’ compensation. This no-fault system ensures that employees who suffer workplace illnesses or injuries get the medical treatment and financial benefits that they need. But what happens if you’re an independent contractor instead of an employee?
Independent contractors are not covered by New York’s workers’ compensation system. Instead of filing a workers’ comp claim, independent contractors who suffer an on-the-job injury or illness can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. Through this type of claim, they can recover financial compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other injuries.
The Odierno Law Firm represents injured workers throughout New York, including those who work on a 1099 instead of a W-2. With experience in both workers’ compensation and personal injury law, we have the knowledge that you need to obtain the best possible outcome. To learn more or for a free consultation with a Long Island construction accident attorney, give us a call today.
Can an Independent Contractor Sue If They’re Hurt on the Job?
Workers’ compensation is typically the exclusive remedy for workers who are hurt on the job in New York. With a few exceptions, employees who suffer a workplace injury are limited to filing a workers’ compensation claim against their employer. However, because workers’ comp does not cover independent contractors, they may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against anyone who may be at fault – including the company that employed them.
The first step in the process is determining whether you are considered an employee or an independent contractor. Your employer may have classified you as an independent contractor, but that classification is not always correct. It is less expensive for companies to hire workers as independent contractors, so they may misclassify workers to save money on benefits, payroll taxes, and workers’ compensation insurance.
New York courts have found that there is not a single factor that conclusively determines whether an employer-employee relationship exists. Instead, the courts look to a number of different factors, such as whether the employer (1) directly supervises the services provided by the worker; (2) sets the hours of work; (3) provides facilities, equipment, tools, and supplies; (4) sets the rate of pay; and (5) evaluates job performance. Generally, independent contractors are free from supervision, direction, and control in the performance of their duties.
The law is slightly different for construction workers. Under the Construction Industry Fair Play Act, workers who are injured on the job while performing services for a contractor are presumed to be an employee for purposes of workers’ compensation provided that they meet certain criteria. If a construction worker is free from control and direction in performing their job, performing services outside of the usual course of business for the employer and engaged in an independently established trade, they will likely be considered an independent contractor.
If you are an independent contractor, then you may be able to file a lawsuit against the company that employed you and any other at-fault party. This is generally based on a principle of negligence or carelessness. For example, if you slip and fall on loose carpeting while stopping at the office to drop off paperwork, you may be able to file a premises liability lawsuit against the company, the property owner, or another responsible party.
These cases can be tricky, between proving independent contractor status and demonstrating negligence. If you are a contractor who has been injured on the job, reach out to a Long Island work injury attorney to learn more about your rights and options for pursuing legal action.
What Duties Do Employers Owe to 1099 Employees?
When it comes to workers’ compensation, employers do not have a duty to provide coverage for 1099 workers. New York’s workers’ compensation system does not cover independent contractors.
That being said, employers still have a duty to provide a safe workplace that is free from known hazards. If they negligently, intentionally, or recklessly fail to do so, then they may be responsible for any injuries that result.
Consider the following situation. John is self-employed and provides specialty counter work (such as cutting custom counters) for kitchens, bathrooms, and bars. He is hired by a general contractor to work on kitchen and bathroom countertops in a new development. Under New York law, he is considered an independent contractor.
On a job, John falls down the stairs and suffers serious injuries. The general contractor constructed the stairs but lacked key safety features such as a railing. In this situation, the general contractor failed to install the required railings on the stairs at the job site. John could file a personal injury lawsuit against the general contractor, the property owner, and any other at-fault party.
Through a personal injury claim, John could recover financial compensation for his property damage, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, medical bills, and future medical treatment. In addition, he could seek compensation for his pain and suffering, emotional distress, scarring, disfigurement, and/or loss of enjoyment of life. Importantly, if John were considered an employee, he would be limited to medical treatment and lost wage benefits.
If you’re an independent contractor who suffers an on-the-job injury, the best thing that you can do to protect your rights is to reach out to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. During a free consultation, your lawyer will listen to your story and help you understand your options for filing a claim. You won’t pay a fee unless you recover money through a settlement or verdict at trial.
How Our Law Firm Can Help
Being hurt at work can be devastating. Not only are you in pain, but you may also be out of work and struggling to make ends meet. If you’re an independent contractor, you may not be certain of your rights.
The Odierno Law Firm advocates for injured workers throughout Long Island. We help both employees and independent contractors get the money that they deserve for their injuries. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a Long Island work injury lawyer, give us a call at 631-752-8580 or fill out our online contact form.
Related: NY CONSTRUCTION LABOR LAW 200