There are often times when an injured worker is denied workers compensation benefit because the employer and/or workers compensation insurance company allege they are not an employee, but rather an independent contractor. Recently, a Massachusetts trucking company could not avoid paying higher premiums to their Workers Compensation Insurance by arguing their drivers were independent contractors instead of employees. (See Granite State Insurance Company v Truck Currier, Inc. Middlesex Superior court Docket No. 11-CV-2126-F, January 17th, 2014).
This truck company tried to argue their truck drivers were not employees of the company, but rather independent contractors. Their argument failed. The court stated the trucking company specialized in same day delivery and pick up services, which is entirely dependent on having vehicle and truck drivers. The court concluded where obviously this trucking company would not be able to function at all without their drivers, clearly the drivers are employees and not independent contractors. The truck company could not dispute the truck drivers services were not necessary to their business model and they were a regular and continuing part of their business. Many employers try to avoid paying higher workers compensation premiums by attempting to classify employees as non-employee independent contractors.
Workers Compensation Insurance carriers also try to avoid covering injured workers claims by alleging the worker is not an employee, but rather an independent contractor. Often their arguments fail. Unfortunately, these arguments cause a delay to the injured workers right for benefits to cover lost wages and medical expenses. The determination of whether an injured worker is an employee or an independent contractor is determined on a case by case basis. Most cases need to be heard by an Administrative Judge at the Department of Industrial Accidents in Massachusetts before a final decision is rendered.
There are many factors to consider when determining whether an injured worker is in fact a covered employee verses an independent contractor. One of the main factors in determining whether an injured worker is a covered employee is control. If a worker is always under the direction, supervision or control of a supervisor, that employee is usually deemed an employee and not an independent contractor. There are also many other factors that determine whether a worker is an employee, verses independent contractor. Some of them include how the worker is paid (by the hour verses by the job), whether the worker uses their own tools verses the employer’s tools, and whether the worker wears a company uniform verses their own work apparel. Other factors include whether the worker is hired for one specific job or hired on an ongoing basis and do the parties have an ongoing employment relationship.
If you are injured while working and your employer or the workers compensation insurance company is arguing you are not entitled to benefits because you are not an employee, it is important to contact an experienced workers compensation attorney to determine your rights and remedies. Please contact Attorney Michael O. Smith at 617-263-0060 for a free consultation.