Compensation for SC Independent Contractors After a Work Injury
Learn about your legal rights as an independent contractor after an injury at work
In today’s modern workforce, being an independent contractor comes with many attractive perks. From the freedom to choose clients and projects to the flexibility to set your own hours, this working arrangement is often seen as the epitome of professional autonomy. For many, it represents the opportunity to be one’s own boss, to work on passion projects, and to have control over one’s income and work-life balance.
However, this independence comes with its own set of challenges, particularly when it comes to workplace injuries. Unlike traditional employees, independent contractors typically don’t have access to workers’ compensation benefits if they’re injured at work. This often leaves them to figure out for themselves how they’re going to pay their medical bills and supplement their lost income if their injury prevents them from working.
Fortunately, injured independent contractors in South Carolina do have options to recover compensation after an injury at work. This article will help you determine your status as an employee vs an independent contractor and guide you through your legal options.
Statistics on independent contractors
The number of independent contractors in the U.S. has been growing in recent years. As of 2022, around 31.9 million people identify as “occasional” independent workers, with 11.1 million identifying as part-time and 21.6 million identifying as full-time workers.
The gig economy is also growing. In fact, its projected worth is estimated to be more than $455 million by the end of 2023, a steady increase over previous years.
Common independent contractor jobs in South Carolina
Independent contractors work in a variety of different jobs and industries in South Carolina, some of which include the following:
- Landscapers/lawn care specialists
- Rideshare drivers
- Truck drivers
- Freelance writers/editors
- Graphic designers
- Web developers/designers
- Business or management consultants
- Home renovators
- Private tutors
- Virtual assistants
- Social media managers
- Real estate agents
- Personal trainers
- IT support specialists
- Private chefs/caterers
- Interior designers
- Event planners
- Independent artists or illustrators
- Legal or financial advisors
- Independent cleaning service providers
How does South Carolina define an independent contractor?
Are you an independent contractor? You might not know, especially if you work for someone else in an “employee-like” capacity.
So, how can you be sure which term applies to you?
There’s no litmus test for independent contracting work. Even in a court of law, a judge will look at the various circumstances of your employment and decide which category is appropriate.
Generally speaking, however, an independent contractor is one who isn’t subject to an employer’s will, control or supervision. In other words, you might complete a project for them, but they don’t decide when and how you do it.
Tax-wise, independent contractors are also marked by receiving a 1099 rather than a W2.
Key factors used in South Carolina to determine if a worker is an employee or independent contractor
If you’re still uncertain about your employment status, here are 4 questions that you can ask yourself about your work:
- Does your employer exercise control over you? If they set your hours and directly supervise your work, you’re probably an employee.
- Does your employer furnish the equipment needed for your job? This could include a desk, computer, or workspace such as an office. If the answer is yes, you’re probably an employee.
- How do you get paid—by the hour or by the project? If you get paid by the project, you’re likely an independent contractor.
- Do they have the right to fire you? As an “at will” state, South Carolina employers can fire employees at any time and cease paying them, but independent contractors may have rights through their contract with the employer to be paid if they’re terminated before the job is complete.
These questions make up the “4-factor model” or “4-factor test” that’s commonly applied in South Carolina legal cases where questions arise about independent contractors.
Are independent contractors covered under workers’ comp in South Carolina?
Normally, if you suffer a workplace injury, you’re entitled to certain benefits through workers’ compensation insurance. This is a special type of insurance purchased by employers. In South Carolina, it’s required by law for all businesses with 4 or more employees to have workers’ comp coverage.
If you’re an independent contractor, however, employee benefits and protections don’t apply to you, and this includes the right to workers’ compensation benefits.
Am I required to purchase workers’ comp insurance for myself in South Carolina if I’m self-employed?
The short answer is no. It isn’t a legal necessity. However, it can be a good idea under certain circumstances, especially if you have a dangerous job or frequently contract with third-party businesses.
What are my options for financial compensation after a work injury as an independent contractor?
If you’ve been hurt on the job as an independent contractor, you might still be able to seek damages, even if they don’t come from workers’ compensation insurance. One good option is a personal injury lawsuit.
A personal injury lawsuit differs from workers’ comp in several ways.
The most important one is that personal injury cases revolve around negligence, meaning that someone else has to be at fault for your injury. By contrast, workers’ comp is “no-fault” insurance, meaning that neither employer nor employee have to take the blame for an injury to get compensation.
Another key difference between workers’ comp and personal injury claims is that the latter can be brought against multiple defendants. For example, if you were hurt because of an equipment failure during construction work, you might bring a lawsuit against the company that supplied the equipment, the manufacturer of the equipment, and the owner of the property where the accident occurred.
The best course of action after any injury at work is to contact an experienced work injury attorney who can help you determine your employment classification and explore your legal options.
What steps should I take after an on-the-job injury as an independent contractor?
A job injury can be a devastating thing. To maximize your potential benefits, you should act like you’re an employee of the company until you’re positive that you’re not. This includes taking the following steps:
- Seek medical attention. Prioritize your health and get medical treatment immediately. Make sure to inform the health care provider that the injury is work-related.
- Document the injury. Take photos of the injury and the accident scene, and write down a detailed account of what happened while it’s fresh in your memory.
- Report the injury. Notify the party you are contracted with about the injury as soon as possible. Follow their protocol, if they have one.
- Keep records. Save all medical records and bills related to the injury, including lost income and travel costs for medical appointments, as well as any correspondence related to your injury and work assignment.
- Follow medical advice. Keep all your medical appointments and follow your doctor’s treatment plan exactly.
- Do not provide statements. Avoid giving statements to an insurance company or claims adjuster until you’ve spoken with a lawyer.
- Consult with a lawyer. Reach out to an attorney who specializes in worker’s compensation and personal injury law so you can understand your rights and explore your options for compensation.
What should I do if I think I’ve been misclassified as an independent contractor?
Unfortunately, some employers purposely misclassify their workers as independent contractors to avoid having to purchase workers’ comp insurance and provide other benefits.
If you believe you’re being denied workers’ compensation benefits because of a misclassification of employment, you’ll need to hire a work injury attorney. They can look into your employment status, file appeals on your behalf, and help you receive the compensation you deserve.
Contact an experienced Columbia work injury attorney for help with your claim
If you’ve been injured as an independent contractor or you believe you’ve been misclassified by your employer, it’s essential that you reach out to a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in these types of claims.
At Smith, Born, Leventis, Taylor & Vega, our firm has extensive experience with both workers’ compensation claims and personal injury lawsuits, so you can rest assured your case will be in good hands. We can help you explore all your legal options to get you the compensation you need for medical bills and lost income during this challenging time.
We also offer free consultations, so don’t wait to get the help you need. Contact our office today to get started.