Understand your options for compensation as an independent contractor if you suffer a work injury in South Carolina
The emergence of tech startups, the gig economy and more favorable attitudes toward remote work have led to an increase in workers and companies embracing contract work.
In fact, according to recent data, the number of independent contract workers in the U.S. has increased sharply from 12.9 million in 2017 to 23.9 million in 2021.
Contractors differ from traditional employees in several key ways. Employers pay taxes for their employees, whereas independent contractors are required to report their income and pay their own taxes to the IRS.
Contractors and employees also differ in their entitlement to workers’ comp in the event of a work-related injury.
Examples of independent contractors include:
- Massage therapists
- Landscapers and gardeners
- Security guards
- Personal trainers
- Truck drivers
- Rideshare drivers with Uber or Lyft
- Real estate agents
Common independent contractor workplace injuries
Independent contractor injuries do not necessarily differ from injuries employees commonly sustain in the workplace. The nature of an independent contractor’s injury depends on the type of work the contractor does.
- Office workers may develop carpal tunnel syndrome or neck, back and shoulder injuries due to the repetitive and sedentary nature of office work.
- Painters, roofers, plumbers and other contractors who do renovation and construction work are at risk of falling, tripping over cords and debris at job sites, and straining muscles while lifting heavy items.
- Security contractors can become involved in violent incidents and sustain gunshot wounds, knife wounds and broken bones from wrestling or being struck by heavy objects.
- Electricians may be shocked or electrocuted.
- Lawn care and landscaping workers can be injured by a falling tree or landscaping equipment.
- Truck drivers and rideshare drivers can get into accidents while working that result in broken bones, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, burns and injuries to internal organs.
Worker classification as an independent contractor
You may be an independent contractor if the following is true:
- You are independently employed. Independent contractors technically work for themselves, though they provide their services to private individuals and companies.
- You control the methods by which you perform your work. Contractors and their clients typically have a written or oral contract that outlines the scope of the work project. The client is not legally entitled to exercise control over the manner in which the independent contractor provides the service.
A worker is not automatically classified as an independent contractor simply because an employer chooses that label for the worker. South Carolina law determines a worker’s most appropriate classification based on multiple factors.
Are South Carolina contractors covered under workers’ comp insurance?
South Carolina law does not require independent contractors to purchase workers’ comp insurance unless they employ their own workers.
However, some work contracts may require contractors to purchase their own insurance.
Contractors can always opt to purchase their own insurance to protect themselves in case they get injured at work. Purchasing workers’ comp insurance may be an added expense for contractors, but it also adds an extra layer of security for contractors who may be less likely to win a civil claim against their employer in the event of an injury.
Unfortunately, independent contractors are not generally entitled to workers’ compensation benefits through their employer’s insurance if they’re hurt on the job.
However, if you suffer an injury and you believe you’ve been misclassified as an independent contractor by your employer, you should contact an experienced workers’ comp attorney who can determine your eligibility and advocate for your rights.
What legal options do I have if I’m injured at work as an independent contractor?
Although employers are not legally obligated to provide workers’ compensation coverage for independent contractors, employers may still be liable for contractors’ workplace injuries.
Injured South Carolina independent contractors may choose to file a negligence-based personal injury claim against their employer. The employer can either settle the claim outside of court or present evidence to disprove the injured worker’s claim and proceed to trial.
Columbia car accident lawyers at Chappell, Chappell and Newman help injured victims of car accidents with head and neck injuries claim compensation. We proudly serve the counties of Lexington, Richland, Sumter, Charleston, Aiken, Florence, Lancaster, York, Spartanburg, Orangeburg, Kershaw, and Newberry.
In the news:
California company ruled not liable for contractor’s injuries
Recently, a California appellate court upheld a trial court’s ruling that Roseville Lodge No. 1293 is not liable for injuries an independent contractor sustained after he was hired to move an ATM.
The injured party Ricky Lee Miller, Jr., performed the work as a subcontractor employed by the main contractor, Charlie Gelatini, who was hired by the lodge. Miller filed a lawsuit against the lodge and its bartender after his injuries.
Based on the Privette doctrine, the lodge argued that it was not responsible for the worker’s injuries because he was employed by the main contractor.
The court ruled that the hirer of the independent contractor (Roseville Lodge) was not liable for injuries to the contractor’s employee, Ricky Lee Miller, Jr. The injured worker appealed the ruling, which was later upheld by the California Court of Appeals.
What should independent contractors do if they’re hurt on the job?
There are specific steps independent contractors should take if they’re injured at work to be eligible for potential compensation:
- Seek medical care. An injured worker should always seek medical care as soon as possible after an accident to prevent the injury from getting worse. A doctor will also be able to document your injury, which helps connect it to the event at work.
- Gather evidence. If possible, the contractor should take photos or videos of the accident scene and collect witness statements to be used as evidence.
- Report your injury. The contractor should report the injury to the company for whom they are working. Notifying the company within 90 days will allow the contractor to receive workers’ comp if it is later determined that the contractor was misclassified.
- Keep track of all receipts, bills and pay stubs. In addition to keeping all related medical bills and doctor’s records, the contractor should maintain documentation of their invoices, income statements and pay stubs to document lost income when the contractor is required to take time off to recover from the injury.
- Contact an attorney. Contract workers should contact a workers’ comp attorney who can help determine if they’re eligible for workers’ comp and advise them about their other legal options.
Learn what to do immediately after a work injury or illness in South Carolina to increase your chance of receiving workers’ comp benefits.
Contact a South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney
It’s critical that injured contractors speak to a South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney. Even though many contractors may not be eligible for workers’ comp benefits, a lawyer can advise injured contractors of other options for legal remedy.
At Chappell, Chappell and Newman, our attorneys specialize in both workers’ compensation and personal injury cases, so we’re well-equipped to help independent contractors navigate the process of collecting compensation after a work injury. Our firm has recovered millions of dollars for injured workers across the state of South Carolina, and we’d love the opportunity to help you, too.
Contact us today for a free consultation.