Steven Broom was laying pipe while working on a high school stadium when a trench collapsed, burying him up to his neck in dirt. By the time he was rescued, Broom was severely hurt with rib fractures, collapsed lungs and other injuries.
When he was hurt, he was a temporary worker for Labor Ready. Labor Ready sent him to work for Wilson Paving & Excavation on the stadium project in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. Fortunately, Labor Ready had workers’ compensation that covered some of Broom’s injuries. Because Broom was a contract worker, Wilson Paving’s workers’ compensation plan did not provide any coverage at all for him.
But after a nearly eight-year court battle, the Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed Broom was entitled to collect for the remainder of his damages awarded in his lawsuit for negligence against Wilson Paving.
Nearly 3 million people suffer from work-related injuries every year. Some are so severely injured their lives are never the same again. Thousands of those injuries happen in Oklahoma. Most of the time, Oklahoma employers are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. But workers’ comp doesn’t cover contract workers, so there are no benefits at all to independent contractors who are injured while on the job — no matter how badly they’re hurt.
If you are a contract worker who was injured on the job, don’t give up. There are remedies you can pursue that may provide you benefits under workers’ comp, or you may be entitled to even greater compensation if you can prove the business that hired you was negligent and that the negligence caused your injury.
Business Owners Can Be Sued for Negligence
Like Steven Broom, you may be able to collect damages by suing the business you worked for when you were injured. This requires you to prove the owner was negligent and it was that negligence that caused you to be injured and suffer damages.
When workers’ compensation covers your injury, you collect damages without having to prove your employer was negligent. In a lawsuit, you have to prove the business owner or manager you working for were negligent or acted willfully, and the negligence or willful conduct was the cause of your injury. As a result of the injury, you suffered damages.
The bad news is that filing a complaint for negligence and going through the court system will take you longer to collect damages than if you could file a workers’ compensation claim. The good news is that you will not be limited in the amount you will be able to collect as you are with workers’ compensation benefits.
Were You Wrongly Classified as an Independent Contractor?
Occasionally businesses misclassify workers as an independent contractor when they’re actually employees. This is not determined simply by the employer saying you are or aren’t an independent contractor. Each case is considered individually, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court established many factors courts must consider when determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. Some of those factors are:
Why You Need an Attorney
If you are a contract worker who was injured on the job and told you are not covered by workers’ compensation, don’t give up. Think of Steven Broom and his win. A personal injury attorney will know how to present evidence to show that you are an employee and therefore entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The attorney will analyze your personal situation, the length of time your injury will require you to be off work and other factors to decide the best way to proceed so you can receive the compensation you are owed.