Frequently Asked Questions

What is an independent contractor?

From the outside, an employee and an independent contractor may seem strikingly similar as both can provide goods and services – sometimes under the guise of a company or brand. However, the differences become extremely apparent if there is a debate on where legal responsibility lies in the event of a dispute or an act of negligence that causes a personal injury.

We’ll go over the difference between employees and independent contractors and provide some basic guidance on what to do if you ever find yourself involved in a legal claim against an independent contractor.

What is the difference between an employee and an independent contractor?

For better understanding, let’s define both terms:

  • An employee is a person who provides their time and services to an employer on a regular full or part-time basis. Generally speaking, an employer sets the rules that control an employee’s conduct while they are working on the clock.
  • An independent contractor is a person that provides work to a person that has hired them on a more sporadic basis. An employer can provide guidance, but in most cases, an independent contractor provides their goods or services at their own direction.

 

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How do you tell if someone is an employee or an indepdentd contractor?

The easiest way to tell identify if a person is an employee or an independent contractor is whether the employer has complete control over what they employee does during their job and how it is performed. If the person is calling their own shots with little to no input, they are more than likely and independent contractor.

Other common factors to identify an independent contractor may include, but are not limited to:

  • The person is using their own equipment or tools to perform a job
  • The person is free to compete in an open job market and seek additional work
  • The employer does not withhold taxes, Medicare, and Social Security contributions when paying the person for their services
    • Note: In most cases, an independent contractor is responsible for making these financial obligations on their own

 

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What are some common examples of independent contractors?

Common professions that work as independent contractors may include, but are not limited to:

  • Electricians
  • Plumbers
  • Carpenters
  • Painters
  • Delivery drivers
  • Auto mechanics
  • Dentists
  • Veterinarians
  • Accountants

With the rise of rideshare services and ‘gig’ apps, the independent contractor sector has seen a boom through platforms like Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and more.

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Who is liable if I am injured by a independent contractor?

This can be a delicate matter in the event of a personal injury.

By most standards, an independent contractor is presumed to be liable if they cause an accident due to negligence that results in harm or injury to a victim.

Though, there may be some cases when the employer (and independent contractor) could be held liable, specifically if there is negligent supervision or non-delegable duty of care.

Most personal injury claims, especially those concerning workers’ compensation or injuries caused by independent contractors can be incredibly complex and require legal experts with experience handling those specific matters. Contact a personal injury attorney and seek a consultation if you are ever involved in an accident that involves an independent contractor.

 

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Can an independent contractor file for workers' compenstation if they injured?

One of the differences between an employee and an independent contractor is the ability to file a workers’ compensation claim if they are injured while working.

In the state of Pennsylvania, the law states that all employees must be covered by workers’ compensation. However, as we have pointed out, independent contractors are not considered employees.

So, what does that mean if you are an independent contractor and ad you suffer an injury while working?

Unfortunately, it means that you cannot file for workers’ compensation.

However, you may still seek a personal injury claim against the employee or entity that hired you if you are able to prove negligence on their part. An example may be asking you to work on a dangerous or unsafe premise or interact with a defective and dangerous piece of machinery.

Regardless if you are classified as an employee or an independent contractor if you ever find yourself injured while working it may be in your best interest to seek legal advice from a personal injury law firm. Most firms, like Schiffman Firm, offer a free consultation to help provide guidance and offer advice on the next steps to take.

 

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Attorney Daniel Schiffman

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Daniel S. Schiffman, a partner at Schiffman Firm, is a litigator who practices primarily in the fields of personal injury, product liability, and business litigation. Attorney Schiffman is licensed to practice law in all Pennsylvania state courts (60 judicial districts) and all three of Pennsylvania’s federal district courts.

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