In the state of Ohio, employers generally must purchase workers' compensation insurance to provide coverage for employees. This insurance is very important because it covers all workers who get hurt on-the-job, regardless of how the injury happened or whether an employer was responsible in any way for the injury. If workers' comp did not exist, employees might be left with big bills for injuries that occurred at work. Workers' comp pays for medical bills and provides disability benefits so this type of devastating financial loss does not occur.
Unfortunately, the requirement to provide workers' compensation insurance only extends to employees. A company that hires an independent contractor to do work does not have to purchase workers' comp coverage for the independent contractor.
When an independent contractor is not covered, this can put the individual in a very bad situation since he or she won't be able to claim workers' comp benefits. He or she will only be able to recover compensation for losses when it can be prove someone was negligent or failed to fulfill safety obligations and caused the injury. The injured independent contractor would have to provide this proof in a civil claim to try to obtain damages.
It is important for anyone who is classified as an "independent contractor" to determine if he or she was, in fact, correctly classified when a work injury happened.
As the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation explains: "Sometimes employers mistakenly consider a worker to be an independent contractor and neglect to provide workers' compensation coverage. If an employer controls the working hours, selection of materials, traveling routes and quality of performance of a worker, an employer-employee relationship exists and the employer is required to provide workers' compensation coverage for that employee."
If you suspect that you should have been considered to be an employee but your employer just labeled you as an independent contractor to avoid providing you work with injury benefits, it is imperative you talk with an attorney after an injury - even if no negligence was involved.
Even if you were correctly classified as an independent contractor and your employer didn't cover you, it is still possible to get workers' comp if you buy it yourself. According to the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation: "Independent contractors and subcontractors may elect coverage for themselves if they are sole proprietors or partners."
Obviously, you will have had to make this purchase prior to the time when your injury occurred. To get the strong protections that a workers' comp policy provides, it is often worth investing in a policy so you will not be financially devastated in the event that you suffer an injury while doing your job.