One of the unfortunate things about being a consultant or independent contractor is that you aren’t entitled to benefits from your job. This includes health insurance, paid time off, and even workers compensation benefits. If you were hurt while working for one of your clients, you should call and speak with a Tampa workers comp lawyer.
Here, we’ll explain whether consultants are protected under Florida’s workers compensation laws. We’ll also explain what your workers comp attorney will have to do to get you benefits.
You Must Be Deemed an Employee to Be Eligible for Workers Compensation Benefits in Florida
In order to be eligible for workers compensation benefits, you must be classified as an employee. People who work as independent contractors or consultants are not covered by workers compensation.
The question you may have is whether you’re an employee or not. Even if the company you work for has labeled you as a consultant, that doesn’t mean you aren’t technically an employee.
This is something your Tampa workers comp lawyer can challenge. It all depends on your relationship with your client.
How Is Your Employment Status Determined in Florida?
Florida law is very clear when it comes to whether someone is an employee. According to Florida Statute §440.02, to be considered an employee, you must have been hired for your position. You also have to be paid for your work and services.
In looking at the language of the statute, it does not come right out and say that a consultant or independent contractor isn’t an employee. However, there is plenty of case law and statutory interpretations that clarify this point.
Your Workers Comp Attorney Can Argue That You Are an Employee
One approach your Tampa workers comp lawyer can take is arguing that you are an employee, not a consultant. There are several factors that will be considered when making this determination:
- Who controls the way you do your work and how it is to be completed?
- Is your work done under the direction of the company or do you work freely?
- How long have you been working for the company?
- Who provides you with your work supplies?
- Is the work you perform part of regular business operations?
What your workers comp attorney will do is argue that you meet the criteria of an employee, not a consultant. If they’re able to do this, there’s a much better chance of your claim being approved.
Consultants Are Treated Like Independent Contractors for Workers Comp Purposes
Some people think that the job label given to them by their employer determines their legal employment status. For example, you’re a consultant because the company you work for says you’re a consultant.
Your workers comp lawyer will argue that the work you do and the way it is done makes you an employee. For example, your lawyer may be able to show that you report directly to a supervisor who must approve your work.
Another way of demonstrating that you’re an employee, and thereby entitled to workers’ comp benefits, is to look at how you’re paid. Is your pay handled the same way as the other employees?
What Else Can Your Tampa Workers Comp Lawyer Do to Help?
It can be frustrating to learn that you aren’t entitled to workers compensation benefits. There are people who have worked for a company for over ten years who are deemed consultants.
Your workers comp attorney will have to prove that you are a “de facto” employee. What this means is that they’ll have to show that your relationship with the company is the same as any other employee.
Do You Work Full-Time for Your Employer?
One point your attorney may make is that you work full-time for the company. You don’t offer your services to anybody else. Plus, there’s nobody else at the company who can do what you do.
Essentially, you need to make it clear that, just because you’ve been classified as a consultant, that doesn’t mean you aren’t an employee. Companies are not allowed to classify people as independent contractors and consultants to get away without having to cover their workplace injuries.
Your Lawyer Will Investigate How Previous Claims Were Handled
One other thing your lawyer can do is look to see what your employer has done in the past. Some of the things they’ll explore include:
- Has the company ever had consultants work for them before?
- Does the company you work for offer you any other benefits befitting an employee? (Such as vacation time, sick time, or holiday pay.)
- What were the circumstances under which you were hired?
- Do you have a contract with the company you work for?
- Has the company approved workers compensation benefits to other workers they have classified as consultants in the past?
This is the sort of information that will help your attorney prove your case. Depending on the seriousness of your injuries, your employer may agree to pay your claim rather than spend money to defend their denial.
Your Workers Comp Attorney Will Try to Settle Your Claim
Most workers’ compensation claims are approved. It is rare for any company to deny benefits to an employee. If your claim is denied, your employer will have to submit a reason why.
Your attorney will work with your employer and their insurance carrier to get your claim approved. If they realize that it will cost less to provide you with benefits than it will be to fight your claim, they may agree to do that.
Speak With a Skilled Workers Comp Attorney in Tampa
If you’re a consultant and you were hurt at work, you’ll have a difficult time qualifying for workers’ compensation benefits. Under Florida law, consultants and independent contractors aren’t entitled to these benefits.
However, if your Tampa workers compensation lawyer can prove that you’re an employee and not a consultant, your claim may be approved.
You will be fighting an uphill battle with your employer and their insurance carrier. It’s a good idea to have a seasoned workers comp attorney by your side. We suggest you contact our office at 954-833-5226 today and schedule your free, initial consultation.