According to the California Contractors State License Board, state law requires all employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This includes those who employ construction workers.
However, workers’ compensation insurance typically does not cover independent contractors. Therefore, if companies hire construction workers as independent contractors, these workers may not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
How Do You Know If You’re an Employee or an Independent Contractor?
According to the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR), the state uses an “ABC test” to determine the difference between employees and independent contractors. The state considers all workers employees unless all three of these conditions exist:
- The employer does not control or direct the worker in their performance.
- The worker does something other than what the hiring entity usually does.
- The worker must work independently in a trade of the same nature as the work they perform for the employer. Additionally, they must not rely on a single employer for all their work.
For example, if an office building manager hires an independent construction worker to fix a broken structure, the construction worker is likely an independent contractor in that situation. However, if a construction company hires construction workers to build a building, those workers are employees, even if they only work on one project for that employer.
What if My Employer Misclassifies Me?
It is illegal for an employer to misclassify their employees. However, some may try to get away with this to avoid having to offer benefits or pay workers’ compensation when a work-related injury happens.
According to the DIR, if you believe your employer has misclassified you as an independent contractor, you can:
- File a wage claim with the Labor Commissioner’s Office
- File a labor law violation report with the Labor Commissioner’s Office
- Work with a workers’ compensation lawyer to file a lawsuit against your employer
If your employer retaliates against you for any of these actions, you can also file a discrimination/retaliation complaint with the Labor Commissioner’s Office. Your lawyer can help you with his process if necessary.
What Benefits Can Construction Workers Recover From Workers’ Compensation Claims?
Construction workers are entitled to the same benefits as any other employee in California. This means your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company may cover the following if you were injured while working:
- Medical care: This includes all medical expenses and bills that accumulate due to the injury you suffer, including ambulance, hospitalization, surgeries, medications, physical therapy, and more.
- Temporary disability benefits: According to the DIR, these benefits cover two-thirds of your lost wages while recovering from your injury until you can return to work.
- Permanent disability benefits: If you never fully recover from your injury, you will receive a disability rating. This percentage accounts for your level of impairment, age, and occupation. According to the DIR, a disability evaluator or judge will calculate your rating and determine how much compensation you qualify for.
- Supplemental job displacement benefits: If you do not completely recover from your injury or illness and do not return to the same job, your workers’ compensation benefits can pay for any necessary education or training to enter a new line of work.
If you lost a loved one in a work-related construction accident, your family may be eligible for workers’ compensation death benefits to cover funeral and burial costs and lost wages, according to the DIR.
How Can a Construction Worker File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
After an injury, you must notify your employer within 30 days, per the DIR. After telling your employer, you must file a workers’ compensation claim. Your employer may try to convince you not to file a claim; however, this is against the law.
According to the California Department of General Services, California has a “no-fault” workers’ comp law. This means you automatically become eligible for workers’ comp benefits three days after your injury. If you cannot work for more than two weeks, you will also receive retroactive benefits for the first three days.
What if a Third Party Caused Your Injury?
If a third party caused your injury, you may be able to file a personal injury claim against that party for damages. For example, if your construction accident involved faulty machinery, you could file a claim against the manufacturer.
You can receive workers’ compensation benefits and file a personal injury claim or lawsuit simultaneously. While you cannot recover compensation from two different parties for the same damages, a personal injury suit may help you recover additional benefits not offered through workers’ compensation, such as all lost wages, future medical expenses, and pain and suffering.
However, remember that while workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, you must prove negligence to win a personal injury case.
Should a Construction Worker Hire a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
If you suffered a relatively minor injury and your employer’s insurance company agrees to pay your workers’ compensation benefits, you likely do not need a lawyer. However, working with an attorney can be beneficial if:
- A third party caused your injuries
- You suffered catastrophic injuries
- Your employer claims you did not suffer your injuries while working
- Your employer has misclassified you as an independent contractor
- The workers’ compensation insurance company devalues or denies your claim
Your Lawyer Can Handle Your Case While You Recover
If you are stressed or overwhelmed following your work-related injury, you are likely not allowing your body to rest and heal as necessary. By hiring a workers’ comp attorney, you can take the time needed to recover from your injuries while they handle your employer, any third parties, and any insurance companies that may hassle you.
Learn How to Collect Workers’ Compensation Benefits Today
Construction workers perform demanding physical labor that can result in minor and severe injuries. Because of the nature of this profession, all construction workers deserve workers’ compensation benefits after an injury.
If you have questions about how to recover workers’ compensation benefits or believe your employer or an insurance company is taking advantage of you, contact us at KJT Law Group. We understand workers’ compensation benefits for construction workers and would be honored to help you. Call us at (818) 507-8525.