Although workers’ compensation law varies from state to state, there is one general principle that remains fairly consistent: Exclusive remedy. This holds that if an employee is injured or killed while working and his employer carries workers’ compensation insurance, the only damages he may collect from his employer is workers’ compensation.
There are, of course, options for third-party liability lawsuits and social service benefits for long-term disabilities. But in general, workers’ compensation will be the only money collected from an employer and/or an employer’s insurer in these instances.
However, an exception can be made when the company did not carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage, or when the individual making the claim was not an employee. Independent contractors have no right to collect workers’ compensation coverage, and therefore may pursue litigation. Sometimes, this issue is straightforward. Bear in mind, though, just because a company labels a worker an “employee” does not necessarily make it so. When there is a dispute, courts will weigh a host of factors, such as the degree of control a company had over the worker’s duties and method of payment.
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