What Happens When a Independent Contractor Gets Hurt On-the-Job?
If you get hurt on-the-job and you are an independent contractor, you need to determine if you are covered by workers' compensation insurance. A company that hires an independent contractor generally does not have to provide workers' compensation coverage, but there are many situations in which a person who was hired as an independent contractor isn't actually an independent contractor and thus should be covered. Further, if you are an independent contractor, you may have purchased your own workers' comp insurance, in which case you would be covered for your work injury.
If you did not purchase workers' comp coverage and you are genuinely an independent contractor in the eyes of the law, workers' comp benefits likely will not be available to you. You can try to pursue a lawsuit if someone was to blame for the injury that you endured, but will need to demonstrate that the defendant who you are pursuing a case against failed to fulfill some legal obligation in a way that caused you harm. This is more difficult to do than to make a workers' comp claim where you only must show you got hurt while at work.
If your employer classified you as an independent contractor, this is not definitive proof that you actually are a contractor who isn't entitled to workers' comp coverage. The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission explains that there are situations where workers are not correctly classified by employers.
Employers may claim you are an independent contractor to avoid providing you with benefits, but even signing a contract saying you are an independent contractor does not necessarily mean that is actually your proper designation under the law. As the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission explains: "A recent decision by the Illinois Supreme Court, Roberson v. Industrial Commission, states that referring to a trucker as an independent contractor, even in a written lease agreement, does not remove the trucking company's obligation to provide workers' compensation insurance for those drivers."
To determine if you are actually an independent contractor or not, there are important factors to consider about how you actually do your job on a day-to-day basis. If you run an independent business and provide service to many companies and you have control over when and how work is done, then this is likely a situation where you're actually classified correctly as an independent contractor.
However, if you perform services that are a regular part of a company's business and/or your employer has a lot of control over the way that you work, you could be considered an employee and not an independent contractor- regardless of what your employer says or what contracts you may have signed. If there is a possibility you weren't classified properly, you should talk with an attorney after any work injury, regardless of negligence, to find out about your legal options.