As an independent contractor, can you claim workers’ comp?

The modern American workforce is very different than it was just a few decades ago. It used to be commonplace for people to work for the same company for years and eventually retire, possibly from the same company where they got their first job.

In the modern economy, people are much more likely to switch from one employer to another or work for multiple companies at the same time. They are also far more likely to have self-employed or independent contractor status for both tax and employment purposes.

If you file your taxes as an independent contractor, do you potentially have the right to seek workers’ compensation if you get hurt while working on a job for a client?

Workers’ compensation generally only protects employees

As the name implies, workers’ compensation is a system intended to protect those directly employed by a company from experiencing financial hardship because they work. In Georgia, employers have to purchase a policy to cover their workers or provide the state with evidence of self-insurance if they choose not to work with a third-party insurance provider.

As an independent contractor, you likely don’t have workers’ compensation protection unless you maintain your own coverage because of the risks involved with your job.

Are you a contractor, or are you an employee?

The rise of the gig economy has led to many people working as independent contractors who might otherwise have gotten a job as a direct employee somewhere. Some companies inappropriately categorize their workers as independent contractors to avoid the expenses involved with employment.

When a company hires a contractor instead of an employee, they don’t have to make payroll tax contributions. They can also avoid carrying workers’ compensation insurance for that individual. If you only work for one company, if they micromanage how you do your work or when you do it, if they provide you with equipment and if your work is integral to the primary function of the company, it’s possible the company misclassified you.

You may be able to challenge your classification in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Other times, it may be possible to bring a civil lawsuit to cover your lost wages and medical costs in certain circumstances. Getting advice and information from someone with experience in workers’ compensation cases can help you determine what rights you currently have.