I started a job working with a mechanic shop doing heavy duty truck repairs. The boss said the mechanics are considered independant contractors. I was told I would have a 2 week trial period, then would be given a company vehicle and would be considered an employee. My first day on the job I noticed that they have a warehouse where they attempt to work on heavy duty trucks. I found out that most of the work they do is out in the parking lot in front of the shop because one truck can fit into the wearhouse at a time. One week on the job I injured my knee (working in the parking lot) resulting in a badly torn lateral meniscus that required surgery. They let me go, and now I have $30,000+ in medical bills. I technically was not hired, but did get one paycheck. Am I entitled to a claim?
It sounds likely that you were wrongly characterized as an independent contractor. You were probably an employee and entitled to workers' compensation, depending on the facts of the injury. You should make a claim on the employer's workers' comp coverage by calling the NC Industrial Commission and filing a Form 18. If the claim is denied, you will definitely need to consult with a North Carolina licensed workers' compensation attorney
Did you bring your tools to the job? Did the Employer provide the tools? Could you work only the hours and only the trucks that you decided to work on? How much control did the Company have over your work activities? Did you work set hours? Did you have supervision? The answer to these questions and more will dictate whether you were actually an independent contractor or not. Many Employer's will try to call an employee an "independent contractor" to avoid having to deal with worker's comp, but it is not what they call you that matters. It sounds like you were a probationary employee that is entitled to worker's compensation since you eventually would be an employee after the trial period. Since worker's comp covers you there is no personal injury claim unless someone not connected with the Company caused your injuries negligently. You need legal help because the Company is trying to avoid comp. The quicker you act the better off you will fare here. Worker's comp pays 100% of your medical expense by the way. There is no copay or out of pocket for those expenses.
In your state, the answer is no workers comp for independent contractor, UNLESS: you were performing the functions of an employee, taking guidance and direction from your employer, you have your hours set by your employer, and you were working for no other employer, and you were basically acting as an employee, then yes. Contact a local workers comp lawyer.
I think you were probably an employee from the beginning, and were never an "independent contractor." This is a common problem in NC-- it is called "misclassification" and dishonest employers use it to avoid complying with the law. I think you need to talk to a NC lawyer who is a Certified Specialist in Workers' Compensation and get some specific advice about what you can do. You are going to need a good lawyer to get this problem taken care of. I really don't think there is anything you personally can do to fix it except hire a good lawyer. I have handled a lot of cases like yours and I know that one has to really push these employers to make them do right by an injured worker.
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