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Can an Independent Contractor receive workers’ compensation benefits?

On Behalf of | May 25, 2022 | Workers' Compensation |

Most lawyers will simply say ‘no’, based on the terms of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Only EMPLOYEES injured in the course of their work are entitled to benefits. At Schmidt, Kirifides & Rassias, we take the extra time necessary to fully investigate the circumstances of your employment to determine whether you are actually an independent contractor – or an employee.

Just because the business describes you a certain way does not necessarily make it true – or ‘legal’. Many businesses classify their workers as independent contractors and structure certain elements of the business relationship to support that description, just to avoid the cost of workers’ compensation insurance, health insurance, retirement plans and certain taxes. It can save employers thousands (or millions) of dollars each year. In some situations, it could be illegal – but only if they get caught.

A lot of law firms prefer to take on the ‘easy cases’, not the ones that require a significant investment of time, effort, research and cost (with a risk of losing those costs if they are unsuccessful). “Those” lawyers and law firms operate as a business – to make as much money for themselves as they can, with as little time, cost and risk as possible. Schmidt, Kirifides & Rassias practice law as a “profession”, seeking to protect the rights of ALL injured workers, and to obtain the best outcome for our clients. We fight to challenge the law when we believe it is contrary to the intended spirit of the Workers’ Compensation Act, or where has been interpreted or applied incorrectly by the Court.

In short, we FIGHT to protect our client’s rights – current and future clients.

Many people, including lawyers, do not understand the difference between an independent contractor and an employee; the significance of the difference, nor how to PROVE the difference. CONTROL over the work, terms and conditions of employment, manner of payment etc. is the most important factor, among many others. Upon presenting a judge a list of the relevant factors, many workers could fit into either category. In these situations, more than 100 years of Pennsylvania Court decisions say the terms of the Workers’ Compensation Act must be interpreted and applied in favor of the injured worker, in order to fulfill the intended purpose of this Act – to compensate workers who suffer an injury while just doing their job. Employers should not be allowed to have crafty lawyers structure the terms of employment to ‘get around’ the law, and the spirit of the law – exposing their injured workers to significant medical bills and lost wages in the pursuit of higher profits.

In fact, one category of workers at high risk of injuries have become protected by a separate law, preventing these employers from mischaracterizing their workers. After decades of abusing ‘the system’, the General Assembly of Pennsylvania created the Construction Workplace Misclassification Act. General Contractors, plumbers, carpenters, plasterers, HVAC, electricians, etc. can no longer simply pay their workers by means of a 1099 form (rather than a W-2), paying their employees under-the-table and other means of structuring the employer-employee relationship just to avoid the costs that come with having employees, rather than independent contractors.

In the new world of ride-share and delivery companies such as Uber, Lyft, Door Dash, these drivers are a higher risk of injuries from car accidents just by the greater frequency of being on-the-road. These drivers may one day benefit from a statute protecting them. Until then, the Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialist Lawyers at Schmidt, Kirifides & Rassias are among very few law firms accepting these injured drivers as clients. It is our goal to aggressively pursue these claims to obtain recognition by the Court that these workers NEED the same type of protection as provided in the construction field, by the CWMA. We fully explore the nature of the relationship, from the manner of being hired, the process of determining which drivers get notice of prospective passengers (or deliveries), whether there is a mechanism of ‘retaliation’ against drivers who are less available etc. We vigorously pursue every element of the terms of ’employment’, to demonstrate that these businesses have such a heightened degree of control that they MUST be found to be employers, and that their injured drivers are – in fact – employees, not independent contractors. This same effort and zealous representation of our clients applies in other work environments where big companies exercise control over their workers, yet seek to avoid liability when their workers suffer life-altering injuries.

If you have been injured at work and are refused workers’ compensation benefits, ALWAYS seek advice from a proven Workers’ Compensation Specialist. Call Schmidt, Kirifides & Rassias to speak about your case. Call 610-601-5399 to get started.