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Understanding Your Rights if Injured on the Job as an Independent Contractor

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Note: Andrew’s story is a fictional scenario written to help illustrate how an independent contractor without workers’ compensation insurance can still recover damages from an employer through a personal injury lawsuit.


If you are an independent contractor, and you were injured on the job, you may be entitled to compensation with or without workers’ compensation insurance. An important first question when you’re injured on the job is whether you qualify as an “employee” or “independent contractor.” 

Employers sometimes misclassify workers so they can enjoy the cost savings, so it is crucial to know which category you’re in. 

With or Without Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Independent contractors in Arkansas are not required to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage, but they may opt to voluntarily purchase a policy. If you are an independent contractor with your own workers’ compensation insurance, that typically means you can not sue your client or employer for personal injury. If you are an independent contractor without your own workers’ compensation insurance, you may be able to sue the responsible party for personal injury if you can prove you were injured on the job due to a person or entity’s negligence. 

Contributing Factors

For example, if you are a construction worker, there are a lot of people who play a role in a construction project who could have caused your injury: engineers, property owners, building managers, electricians, general contractors, subcontractors, manufacturers, suppliers, architects, maintenance companies, or vehicle drivers. 

Here are the following ways negligence could lead to injury:

  • Reckless driving
  • Defects in design plans
  • Lack of training/supervision
  • Improperly erected scaffolding
  • A co-worker’s negligence that leads to injury
  • Defective safety equipment, tools, and machinery
  • The collapse of a trench due to improperly built barriers

Types of Injuries 

In the construction example, a worker could sustain any of the following types of injuries:

  • Falls
  • Electric shocks
  • Wrongful death
  • Occupational diseases
  • Injury from a structural collapse
  • On-site and off-site vehicle accidents
  • Exposure to hazardous/toxic chemical leaks or spills
  • Repetitive motion injuries or repetitive strain injuries (RSI)

What You Can Do

Independent contractors should consult with an attorney to determine who is at fault for their injuries, whether they’re covered under workers’ comp, and if the responsible party can be sued for personal injury based on the worker’s legal relationship with them. 

Personal Injury Lawsuit

If you were injured due to someone else’s negligence, you may be able to sue them for personal injury. The requirements for proving negligence in a personal injury lawsuit are as follow:

  • Another party has the duty to act in a reasonable manner regarding your safety.
  • That person or entity failed to perform that duty.
  • You were injured as a result of this negligence. 
  • The plaintiff (victim) suffered real damages.

In the state of Arkansas, if a victim is found to be 50% at fault for their injuries, they are prohibited from recovering compensation of any kind. This is where a lawyer can come in— to help you assess your portion of fault and recover damages from the at-fault party. 

A lawyer can also help you meet deadlines, review evidence, and provide documentation for your case. If you have a valid claim, you must file a lawsuit within three years. 

This is the statute of limitations on all personal injury claims in Arkansas. This three-year limitation begins on the day of the injury, so it is important to seek counsel in a timely manner. 

Product Liability 

In the case of faulty equipment, you may be able to file what’s called a product liability lawsuit. The elements you must prove in court for this type of case are:

  • You were using the tool or equipment in the manner intended.
  • The tool or equipment had a dangerous defect that caused your injury.
  • The product that caused your injury was dangerous when it left the supplier or manufacturer.

Personal Injury vs. Workers’ Comp

Workers’ comp insurance covers lost wages, medical bills, and disability ratings for future disability, permanent partial disability, and temporary total disability. In contrast, a personal injury lawsuit can provide compensation for non-economic damages, such as the pain and suffering caused by your bodily injury.

Another difference is that a personal injury lawsuit involves someone who is at fault, whereas a workers’ compensation case does not. If you are an independent contractor with workers’ compensation insurance, your ability to receive reimbursement for a work-related injury does not depend on someone being at fault. 

Andrew’s Story

Andrew is a construction worker who operates as an independent contractor. One day, as he repelled from the roof, his harness defected and caused Andrew to fall from 15 feet in the air. Andrew suffered multiple breaks and fractures, requiring immediate medical care. 

It was determined that the safety harness Andrew used to repel from the roof was defective, and this was a result of the employer’s failure to fulfill the responsibility of conducting safety inspections. 

Andrew does not have workers’ compensation insurance, so he decided to sue his employer for personal injury. It was not a product liability lawsuit since the safety harness was in working condition when it left the manufacturer. 

How We Can Help

The Law Offices of Craig L. Cook can help you determine who (if anyone) is at fault for your injury, how to prove negligence (if present), and what compensation you have the rights to pursue. 

Whether you are an independent contractor with workers’ compensation or would like to sue someone for personal injury, we are here to represent you. We specialize in these practice areas, and we can help you build a case for either. 

With our help, you won’t be alone in the fight for your rights!