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As the economy changes, more and more workers are being forced to be self-employed and to required to work as independent contractors.

Employers don’t have to pay taxes, disability, and overtime rates to independent contractors and theoretically the independent contractors benefit because they have greater control over where and when they work. independent contractors who suffer personal injuries do not enjoy the insurance coverage of the Workers’ Compensation system.

The line between employees and independent contractors is not as simple as whether the employer withholds taxes and deductions and files a 1040 tax form for the worker or does not withhold anything and files a 1099 form. The law has consistently held that whenever an employer exercises control over how, when, and where work is done, the worker is legally an employee and is entitled to all legal benefits. For example, if a general contractor tells an independent plumber that he must be at the job site by 7 AM, then the plumber legally becomes an employee.

The use of independent contractors has always been common in many fields, especially construction, where many personal injuries occur. On a building project, a general contractor will often hire many independent contractors, and when one of the independent workers suffers an injury on the job, questions of liability and insurance coverage arise.

Recently, a ruling from the California Supreme court has extended a new level of protection to injured independent contractors. In Tverberg vs. Fillner Construction, the Supreme Court ruled that Jeffrey Tverberg could seek recovery from Fillner Construction for serious personal injuries that Mr. Tverberg suffered at a gas station construction site.

Fillner was the general contractor, and Fillner contracted with Lane Supply, which hired Perry Construction to install a canopy at the site. Perry, in turn, hired Mr. Tverberg to install the canopy, and he fell into a hole and suffered his injuries.

The Supreme Court ruled that because Mr. Tverberg was an independent contractor, he could seek recovery for his injuries from Fillner.

Fillner argued that a 1993 decision known as Privette vs. Superior Court insulated the firm from Mr. Tverberg’s suit, but the Supreme court ruled that Privette applied to employees, and that Mr. Tverberg truly was an independent contractor.

Tverberg is an important precedent for all independent contractors because it provides this class of workers with an opportunity to recover damages if they suffer personal injuries because of a general contractor’s negligence.

Injury cases involving independent contractors are challenging and complicated, and every situation is unique. If you are an injured on the job, call a personal injury attorney at our firm to find out if we can help.

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Delay can result in the permanent loss of personal injury rights.  Don’t put it off.  Call now.


Richard Alexander