Independent contractors at risk in industrial accidents
Many Arizona residents work as “independent contractors.” An independent contractor may provide services to another person or company on a regular basis but does not thereby become an employee of that person or company. Common examples of “independent contractors” include plumbers and cleaning service providers. Lawyers are also thought of as “independent contractors” for their clients. Oftentimes, an independent contractor may operate his or her own business.
Many factories and other employers in Arizona and elsewhere prefer to use independent contractors over employees for a variety of financial and legal reasons. Unfortunately, when factory accidents occur, an independent contractor can just as easily be at risk for a serious workplace injury or even death.
An independent contractor in another state was recently killed in a workplace accident when he was struck by a piece of steel. It’s unknown if it was the man’s own fault or if the owner of the facility was not adhering to proper safety regulations.
In Arizona’s worker’s compensation system, an employer does not have to provide worker’s compensation insurance to an independent contractor. This saves an employer money on insurance premiums, but it deprives the independent contractor of the ability to take advantage of the no-fault workers’ compensation system. In practical terms, if an independent contractor is even slightly at fault for an industrial accident, then he or she may not be able to get enough compensation to cover his or her lost wages and medical expenses.
However, an employer may not avoid paying workers’ compensation insurance simply by declaring its employees “independent contractors.” In a dispute about whether a worker is an employee, the state will look at a number of factors to discern the true nature of the worker’s relationship with the employer.
Source: Omaha.com, “Industrial accident claims life of Hoskins man”, Oct. 10, 2012