Mar 2017

What Happens When a Rhode Island Independent Contractor Suffers a Workplace Injury?

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyThe Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training makes it clear that independent contractors who get hurt on-the-job aren’t entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. This is true even when the injury they suffered clearly occurred in the course and scope of their work duties.

Not being able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits means that independent contractors are deprived of very important workplace protections. Workers’ comp ensures the payment of medical expenditures for an illness or for an injury that occurs due to work tasks. The benefits available through workers’ comp can be obtained by reporting a work injury. There is generally no need to file a lawsuit and there is no need to prove an employer did anything wrong to get benefits.

For an independent contractor, these automatic benefits won’t be available after the contractor is harmed while doing work, which means the contractor could struggle to pay the bills. There are circumstances in which independent contractors may be able to recover damages for work injuries, but they’d have to go through the process of filing a personal injury claim and proving liability. This would mean showing that the defendant breached some legal duty and caused the damages due to the breach.

While this is a major downside of working as an independent contractor, it is important to know that Rhode Island has very strict laws for who can be an independent contractor. If those laws were not followed and a company hired you do to do work, it’s possible the employer could actually be responsible for providing workers’ comp coverage. There are also circumstances where people who work for themselves will be eligible to purchase workers’ comp coverage and will choose to buy it so they are protected if an injury happens.

The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training explains the rules for workers’ comp for independent contractors. According to the department, independent contractors are “exempt from the RI Workers’ Compensation Act and are not eligible to collect benefits. For purposes of workers’ compensation, domestic employees, independent contractors, sole proprietors and partners are exempt.”

As of January 1, 2001, independent contractors are required to file a specific form, called a Notice of Designation as Independent Contractor (DWC-11-IC) form, with the Department of Labor and Training (DLT).

Rhode Island law also makes clear that just because you and your employer may believe you are an independent contractor, this isn’t enough to always make you fall within this designation.

“An independent contractor is someone who maintains an independent business and is available for hire to provide service to the public,” the Department of Labor and Training outlines.

It doesn’t matter if you and your employer both agree: If you only work for one company and that company controls how you work, you’re likely an employee and should be covered by workers’ comp.

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