I’m Self-Employed: Am I Eligible for Ohio Workers’ Compensation?

Doug Mann

If you’re self-employed or an independent contractor and get hurt in the course of your business, you may be wondering whether you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The answer generally depends on the choices you made for your business. 

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Table of Contents
  1. What if I’m an Independent Contractor Working for Another Company? 
  2. Pursuing a Negligence Claim as an Independent Contractor
  3. Protecting Yourself as a Self-Employed Person in Ohio

In Ohio, any business with employees–even a single employee–is required to carry workers’ compensation coverage. However, a sole proprietor, sole proprietor operating as an LLC, or partner in a business is not required to participate in the Ohio workers’ compensation program. In other words, if you fall into one of these categories, it is up to you whether you have workers’ compensation coverage for yourself. If you opted not to make contributions, you won’t be covered. 

If you’re reading this for general information and not because you’ve already been injured on the job, you may want to seriously consider taking that coverage. Every small business owner wants to minimize costs, and that’s especially true if you’re just starting out and don’t yet have steady cash flow. But, if your own labor is your sole source of income, leaving yourself unprotected can be risky.

What if I’m an Independent Contractor Working for Another Company? 

In Ohio, workers’ compensation coverage doesn’t extend to independent contractors. That’s true even if you’re injured in the performance of your duties for the client company or on their property. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have no recourse. If you’re an independent contractor who has been injured on the job and you didn’t secure workers’ compensation coverage for yourself, there are two key questions to ask: 

Are you a misclassified employee?

The fact that an employer designates you an independent contractor doesn’t necessarily mean that you are an independent contractor under Ohio law. If you’re a 1099 worker and have been injured on the job, don’t assume that alone means you aren’t eligible for benefits.

Ohio law considers a variety of factors in determining whether you are an employee or independent contractor. For workers’ compensation purposes, those factors include things like whether you perform similar services for other companies, the degree to which you control your own schedule, and how you’re paid. 

An expert tip from Doug Mann

If you’re classified as an independent contractor but believe you may be misclassified–especially if you only work for one company and perform work similar to that performed by employees of the company–it’s in your best interest to talk with an Ohio workers’ compensation attorney to learn more about whether you may be qualified for benefits. If your attorney can prove that you are a misclassified employee rather than a true independent contractor, you could be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits just like any other employee of the company would. 

Did someone’s negligence cause your injury?

Workers’ compensation provides a streamlined way for employees who are injured at work to get their medical expenses covered and receive replacement income. But, workers’ compensation benefits are much more limited than a personal injury claim. And, for employees, workers’ compensation is typically an exclusive remedy, which means an injured employee can’t sue the employer for negligence. 

If you’re ineligible for workers’ compensation because you’re self-employed and were working with the company as an independent contractor, then you don’t face that limitation on the right to sue. So, if your injury happened because the company was negligent in some way, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the company. That may mean you can pursue certain types of damages, such as pain and suffering, that aren’t available in a workers’ compensation case. 

Pursuing a Negligence Claim as an Independent Contractor

Suing a client or third party for negligence requires showing that they had a duty of care, that they breached that duty, and that their failure to live up to that duty caused your injuries.

In the workplace setting, this can arise in many different ways, such as: 

  • An unsafe set-up, such as an improperly marked warehouse floor or precariously stacked merchandise
  • Failure to maintain equipment in safe condition
  • Negligent hiring or training of an employee who caused your injury
  • Exposure to toxins or other harmful environmental factors 

It’s also important to note that individuals or businesses other than the company you’re working for may be liable for negligence. For example, imagine that you’re a delivery driver working for an app-based service, and are involved in an automobile accident on your way to make a delivery. You may have a negligence claim against another driver who caused or contributed to the accident. 

In fact, if it’s determined that you are legally an employee and are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, you may still be able to file a negligence claim against a third party–like the other driver in the example above. However, you generally can’t recover for the same losses twice. So, for example, you can’t receive compensation for medical expenses that were paid by workers’ compensation. 

Protecting Yourself as a Self-Employed Person in Ohio

The best first step for most self-employed people in Ohio is to take advantage of the opportunity to participate in the state’s workers’ compensation program and ensure that benefits will be available if you’re injured on the job. If you have already been injured and don’t have workers’ compensation coverage and you are a true independent contractor, the next step will be to consider whether someone else may be legally responsible for your injuries. 

An Ohio law firm that handles both workers’ compensation and personal injury claims can be your best resource, to ensure that you don’t miss out on any available compensation and any claims you may have are carefully coordinated. 

If you believe you may need legal help, get in touch with us today for a free consultation.

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