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Can I File for Workers’ Comp Benefits If I Am Hurt While Working as an Independent Contractor in Des Moines?

Are you an independent contractor in Des Moines? If you were hurt on the job, you may have questions about your rights and your responsibilities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that independent contractors make up seven percent of the American workforce. In Iowa, independent workers are not covered by workers’ comp insurance. However, an independent contractor may have a claim if they are misclassified. 

At Ball, Kirk & Holm, P.C., we take on the full range of work injury cases, including workers’ comp claims, third party liability cases, and personal injury lawsuits. Our firm knows how to protect the legal rights and financial interests of independent contractors. Here, our Des Moines workers’ comp lawyers provide an overview of the key points to know about seeking workers’ compensation benefits as an independent contractor in Iowa. 

Independent Contractors Not Covered By Workers’ Comp Insurers in Iowa

An independent contractor is a person who provides goods or services to another entity—business or organization—under terms specified in a contract or within a verbal agreement. Unlike employees, independent contractors do not work directly for an employer. Instead, they are usually paid on a freelance basis and they retain control over how they fulfill their contractual obligations.

In Iowa, employers must provide workers’ comp coverage to their employees. However, as independent contractors are not employees, they are not covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Indeed, the classification as an independent contractor excludes a person from receiving benefits like medical coverage and wage replacement that are covered by workers’ comp. 

The Takeaway: If you are a properly classified independent contractor in Iowa and you are injured while on the job, you are not eligible to file for workers’ compensation benefits. 

Understanding Worker Classifications Laws in Iowa

Employees in Des Moines are entitled to workers’ compensation coverage under Iowa law. In contrast, businesses and organizations are not required to provide no-fault workers’ comp coverage for independent contractors that they rely on. However, reality can sometimes prove to be more complicated. As explained by Iowa Workforce Development, an employer cannot simply decide who is an employee and who is an independent contractor. There are strict criteria that must be met for a person to be properly classified as an independent contractor in Iowa. Key factors include: 

  • Autonomy: Independent contractors typically control how they perform their work—unlike employees who follow their employer’s instructions. If any employer exercised too much control over how specific tasks get done, an independent contract may be misclassified.  
  • Independence: Contractors often provide their own tools and equipment, invest in their own business. Beyond that, they can also seek out other business opportunities
  • Relationship Duration: The relationship with the hiring party is usually based on one project or a set period and does not involve a permanent or long-term commitment.

The Takeaway: In Iowa, a misclassified independent contractor may have several claims depending on the circumstances surrounding their misclassification. If incorrectly classified as an independent contractor instead of an employee, a worker can seek reclassification to gain access to employment benefits such as workers’ compensation. They may also be eligible for back pay for wages they would have earned as employees, including overtime pay and insurance benefits. 

Independent Contractors Have the Right to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit

The no-fault workers’ comp insurance system is often referred to as a “grand bargain” between workers and employers. An injured worker can claim workers’ comp benefits without proving that their employer’s negligence contributed to their accident. In exchange, injured workers in Iowa lose their right to file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer. A workers’ comp claim is the sole remedy that they have against their company or organization. 

That limitation does not apply to independent contractors. Independent contractors in Iowa retain the right to file a personal injury lawsuit if they are injured on the job. When pursuing a personal injury lawsuit, an independent contractor must prove that their injury resulted from the negligence or wrongful act of another party. Of course, this differs from a workers’ comp claim where fault is not required. Through a successful claim, an independent contractor can seek compensation for: 

  • Property damage; 
  • Emergency room care; 
  • Hospital bills; 
  • Long-term medical costs; 
  • Lost wages; 
  • Loss of future earnings; 
  • Pain and suffering; 
  • Disability/disfigurement; and
  • Wrongful death damages. 

The Takeaway: As an independent contractor who was hurt on the job in Des Moines, you have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit to seek financial compensation for their damages. However, you must prove the defendant’s negligence in order to establish liability.  

A Lawyer Can Protect Your Rights and Your Interests 

Work injury claims are complicated—especially so for independent contractors. Following an accident on the job in Des Moines, it is imperative that you have skilled legal representation. No matter the situation that you find yourself in, your attorney can review your case, answer legal questions, and help you determine your best avenue for justice, accountability, and compensation.  

Independent contractors in Iowa make important contributions to the economy. If they are improperly classified, then legal action needs to be taken to address the matter. If they are properly classified, they cannot file for workers’ comp after an accident, but they still retain the right to seek compensation for their damages through a traditional personal injury claim. 

Speak to a Workers’ Comp Attorney in Des Moines, Iowa

At Ball, Kirk & Holm, P.C., our Des Moines workers’ compensation attorneys are devoted to protecting the best interests of injured workers. We are prepared to travel to you after a job-related accident. If you have any questions about workers’ comp claims and independent contractors, we are here to help. Call us now or connect with us online for your free, no commitment initial case review. Our firm handles workers’ comp cases in Des Moines and throughout Central Iowa.