Stephen Hasner | Workers' Compensation | November 12, 2021
If the pandemic has proven anything, it’s that there’s no time to waste on a profession you don’t love. Perhaps that’s why self-employment is on the rise. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, America is likely to have 10.3 million self-employed workers by the end of 2026.
Working for yourself allows you to maintain a flexible schedule, make more money, and manage your own taxes and benefits. But while there are many advantages to becoming your own boss, there are a few downsides, as well.
For independent contractors, a major area of concern is the question of workers’ compensation.
Workplace injuries are common. This is especially true in certain fields, like construction, agriculture, forestry, and transportation. Common injuries stem from overexertion, motor vehicle accidents, and falls. Any one of these events could leave you with a host of unexpected expenses.
Medical bills and time away from work could lead to a major financial setback. So as an independent contractor, what are your rights in the aftermath of a workplace injury? Are you entitled to compensation? Keep reading to find out.
Who Is Eligible for Workers’ Comp in Georgia?
Unfortunately, under Georgia law, independent contractors are not eligible for workers’ compensation. In very rare situations, an employer may opt to provide workers’ comp, but it is not their legal duty to do so.
Only permanent employees of a business that employs three or more workers are eligible for coverage. If you have questions about coverage verification, you can visit the State Board of Workers’ Compensation online.
Are You an Employee or an Independent Contractor?
Sometimes, it’s unclear whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. If you filled out a 1099 tax form, you are generally classified as an independent contractor. With that being said, there are a few factors that may muddy the waters, so to speak.
Georgia workers’ comp laws can be a little complex. Here are some factors that may determine whether you are entitled to compensation after a workplace injury:
- You risk termination when you don’t abide by the employer’s strict directives
- You don’t decide the hours you work
- You don’t supply your own tools and resources for the job
- You are paid by salary, rather than by the hour
- You did not sign an independent contractor agreement
You may take consolation in the fact that Georgia law has some gray areas in regards to workers’ comp. The more control the employer has over your workplace decisions, the more likely it is that you can claim employee status. An attorney will be able to further advise you of your rights.
What Duties Does an Employer Have to an Independent Contractor?
While an employer does not have to provide workers’ comp for most independent contractors, they still have safety duties to fulfill.
Can you prove that the employer showed negligence and/or failed to take reasonable care, leading to your accident? If so, you may be entitled to compensation.
In comparison to employees, independent contractors will find it more difficult to prove employer negligence. Of course, that doesn’t mean the effort is futile. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the system and pursue compensation for your injuries.
Does an Injured Independent Contractor Need an Attorney?
You might be able to guess the answer to this last question by now. Yes, an injured independent contractor does need an attorney.
A lawyer can help you to determine whether to file a lawsuit after a workplace injury. If it seems that workers’ compensation does not apply to your injury, this might be the next logical step.
Be aware, however, that there is a two-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims in Georgia, which means that it’s often a good idea to seek legal representation right away.