If you are an independent contractor and not an employee, you cannot file for workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia. With that said, some employers deliberately misclassify employees as “independent contractors” because they want to avoid paying workers’ compensation premiums. Even though such an employer may give you a label, that label will not control. Instead, you must look at the actual nature of the relationship between you and the employer.
So, even if you filed a workers’ compensation claim that an employer denied because of your status, you may benefit from getting an objective, independent review of your case. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney at Sherrod & Bernard, P.C., may find that you have been mislabeled as an “independent contractor.” You may actually be an employee that qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits.
What Is an Independent Contractor in Georgia?
You can find independent contractors throughout Georgia’s economy today. They are people who provide everything from food delivery to emergency iPhone repairs. Generally speaking, you will meet the definition of an independent contractor in our state if you:
- Sign a contract with another party that expressly or implicitly creates an independent contractor relationship
- Retain the right to control the time, manner and method of work that you provide
- Get paid on a set price per job rather than on an hourly or salary basis.
Many businesses like doing work with independent contractors because they can avoid the costs of providing a physical work area and/or tools and equipment, health benefits and workers’ compensation insurance. However, in some cases, it doesn’t matter whether an employer labels you an “independent contractor” or not. Instead, it depends on the nature of your relationship with the employer.
Some factors that can determine whether you are an employee or independent contractor are:
- Contract – Does the language of the contract call you an “independent contractor” but otherwise create a traditional employer-employee relationship? It may be possible that a contract clearly establishes your status as an employee.
- Pay – If you are paid on an hourly or weekly basis rather than per project, then it would lean towards you being an employee rather than a contractor.
- Taxes – If your wages are reported on a 1099 form rather than on a W-2 form, it will lean towards you being deemed to be an independent contractor. However, you may still be an employee even if you use a 1099 form. Again, it depends on the nature of the relationship.
- Type of work – If you are hired to do something that is a part of the employer’s regular business, it will lean towards you being an employee. For instance, you may be an employee if you are hired to cut lawns for a lawn mowing company. However, you may be an independent contractor if a neighbor hires you to mow the lawn.
- Tools and resources – If the employer supplies all of the tools and resources that you need in order to complete the job, then you will likely be seen as an employee rather than as a contractor.
- Overall control – If the employer basically tells you where to perform a job, what time you are supposed to do it, what tools you will use to do it and the method you will follow when doing it, then you are likely an employee and not an independent contractor.
If you are an employee rather than an independent contractor, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits that can cover your medical expenses and pay a portion of the wages that you lose due to a disability. However, even if you are not an employee and thus ineligible for benefits, you should still talk with a lawyer to learn about your options.
What Can You Do If Your Employer Mislabeled Your Employment Status?
If your employer has labeled you as an “independent contractor,” your attorney from Sherrod & Bernard, P.C., can act on your behalf and explain to the employer that you have a right to workers’ compensation benefits. If the employer refuses to do the right thing, then we will be prepared to request a hearing before the State Board of Workers’ Compensation and represent you at the hearing.
At a hearing, you would get the chance to present evidence that establishes that you are an employee. For instance, you may have pay stubs which show that you were paid by the hour or a contract that essentially creates an employer-employee relationship. If the hearing does not result in a decision in your favor, we can help you to appeal the decision and keep fighting on your behalf.
What Can You Do If You Are an Independent Contractor in Georgia?
If you are independent contractor in Georgia who gets hurt while on the job, you may have options that go beyond workers’ compensation insurance. Those options may include:
- Filing a lawsuit – If someone else’s negligence caused you to suffer injuries, then you can file a lawsuit against that party. The lawsuit may cover damages such as past and future medical expenses, lost income, diminished future earning capacity and pain and suffering. One of the advantages of workers’ compensation benefits is that you do not have to prove anyone’s fault. To recover in a lawsuit, you will need to establish fault.
- Seeking disability benefits – If you suffer from a disability, then you may be eligible to receive federal Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. An attorney can help you to determine if you meet the federal government’s definition of a disability and help you to go through the application process.
Get Help from Our Douglasville Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
If you have been hurt while working, we know how important workers’ compensation benefits can be for you. At Sherrod & Bernard, P.C., our worker’s compensation lawyers will work tirelessly for you and pursue all benefits you are due. Contact us today for a free, no-risk consultation and learn more about how we can help you.
John W. Sherrod is a Founding Partner of Sherrod & Bernard, P.C., who has represented injury victims and their families in Georgia for more than 30 years. A native of Marietta, Georgia, John graduated cum laude from the University of Georgia in 1984 and graduated from Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law at the top of his class in 1987. In addition to his law practice, John is a frequent speaker at trial lawyer functions and an active member of several professional organizations, including the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and Southern Trial Lawyers Association.