Negligence will work, but he was either your Employer or your Contractor. Employer is W/C, and Contractor is Negligence. You should probably get an Attorney, because it is not always Black and White.
I represent Employers, but I can recommend Worker Attorneys in So Cal if you ask.
The fact that he told you that you were an independent contractor does not make it so. This is a common form of workers' comp fraud known as "misclassification." See a local work comp lawyer for help.
This answer is intended as general information and not as specific legal advice. If you want to have a free consultation with me, please contact me through AVVO.
Consult a WC attorney to determine your true legal status as employee or contractor. The attorney can guide you from there.
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New Jersey's rules make it very difficult for an employer to claim that an individual is an independent contractor. The majority of cases usually find the individual to have been an employee. You will need to sit down with an attorney. Regarding whether he was insured, go online to NJCRIB and select the coverage search option. You must put in the employer (company name, sometimes variations of the name) date of loss. It is about 95% accurate. If you can't find anything on the site then call NJCRIB. The extensions for the individuals that search coverage are listed on the site.
Note if the company is uninsured and you were an employee you may have an uninsured claim. The uninsured fund will pay medical and temp. disability. You may still obtain a judgment against the employer.
You need to sit down with someone that can explore all you options.