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Can Independent Contractors Get Workers’ Compensation?

No, independent contractors cannot get workers’ compensation. However, your boss might misclassify you as an independent contractor to avoid paying benefits they are supposed to provide under the law, like workers’ compensation coverage.

How California Defines Independent Contractors

You might be an independent contractor if the employer hires you to perform a specific project or task for a certain amount of pay. However, you may decide things like:

  • How to do your job
  • What you wear to the job, as independent contractors do not typically wear work clothes that show the boss’ company name, for example
  • The tools you use to perform the job

For example, a person who designs websites for multiple companies through a freelance listing site while working from home would be more likely to be an independent contractor than a person who works for one company in the in-house IT department.Another indication that someone is an independent contractor is that they receive a 1099-NEC (Non-Employee Compensation) form for their work to use when preparing their tax returns. If this is the case for you, you may be ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits from that employer.

Keep in mind, however, that many people in our state work multiple jobs. If you get a 1099-NEC from a side gig and a W-2 form from your day job, you might be able to pursue workers’ compensation benefits under your W-2 employer’s workers’ comp coverage if you’re hurt on the job. These situations can be complicated, so you will want to talk to a lawyer about how to proceed in this case.

Who Is an Employee Under California Law?

Many additional factors go into the analysis of who is an employee and who is an independent contractor.

For example, employees of a company usually work directly for that company, rather than getting job assignments or bookings through a company the worker created, like independent contractors. If your boss prohibits you from having a side job, you are likely an employee.

As an employee, you should have coverage for work-related injuries or illnesses under your boss’ workers’ comp insurance. 

If You Disagree With Your Employer’s Classification of You as an Independent Contractor

You will need to file certain forms with the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) if your employer denied your worker’s compensation claim based on their classification of you as an independent contractor and you disagree with this characterization. Once you challenge the independent contractor status, the insurer for the company or its legal representative must convince the judge that you are not an employee.

The two forms you must file to start the dispute process are:

  1. Application for Adjudication of Claim. This five-page form with a page of instructions requires you to provide information about yourself, the employer, the accident, your injuries, medical treatment, and the nature of the disagreement that led to the filing of the application. You would state that you dispute the denial of benefits based on misclassification as an independent contractor because you are actually an employee.
  2. Declaration of Readiness to Proceed. This much shorter (two pages and one page of instructions) form lets the Appeals Board know that you have made good faith efforts to resolve the dispute and that you are ready to have a hearing on the matter.

You would file these forms with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board in California’s Division of Workers’ Compensation. You are allowed to have an attorney help you throughout the process.

How a Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Serve You

You don’t have to navigate California’s workers’ compensation system by yourself. An attorney with experience handling cases like yours can deal with all the guesswork for you and assume these tasks:

  • Determining your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits
  • Gathering various forms of evidence
  • Communicating with your employer, their insurer, their legal team, and other involved entities
  • Appealing a denial
  • Comply with filing deadlines
  • Representing you during court hearings and legal proceedings
  • Negotiating a fair settlement

Many law firms operate under a contingency-fee basis, meaning they only collect a fee if and when they recover benefits for you.

Benefits You Could Receive Under California’s Worker’s Compensation Program

California law requires workers’ compensation insurance carriers to provide several benefits, which you would miss out on if incorrectly designated as an ineligible independent contractor instead of a covered employee. Workers’ compensation benefits in our state can include:

  • Medical care costs. You usually need to see healthcare providers approved by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Your boss should give you a list of their approved medical providers when you notify them of your injury. Be sure to tell all healthcare providers that you have a work-related injury.
  • Temporary disability. These benefits can replace two-thirds of your regular gross (pre-tax) pay, up to certain maximums. If you go back to work on light duty and get paid less, the benefits can cover two-thirds of the difference in your gross pay.
  • Permanent disability. If you complete your medical treatments and reach the point at which your doctor does not think you will get any better, you could get a disability rating, which can make you eligible for permanent disability benefits.
  • Job displacement training vouchers. If you have a permanent disability and do not return to your job, you could receive vouchers that can help to pay for job skills training for a new position.
  • Death benefits. Eligible dependents could receive death benefits if their family member dies from a covered work-related injury or illness.

Call KJT Law Group to Determine Your Eligibility for Workers’ Compensation Benefits

You can talk to a workers’ compensation lawyer from the KJT Law Group if your employer denied your workers’ compensation claim and classified you as an independent contractor. Simply call us at (818) 507-8525 today to begin a free consultation.

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