Do "gig" workers qualify for workers' comp?

Temp workers and part-timers are covered, but independent contractors are not

Nearly all Louisiana employers must provide workers' compensation insurance. But a growing number of jobs do not fit the traditional employer-employee paradigm. Freelancers and people who piece together a living from "gigs" such as dog sitting or driving an Uber car are generally not covered by workers' comp.

What happens when gig workers are injured while working? Do temp agencies provide workers' compensation? You may need a lawyer to answer those questions and assert your rights.

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One downside of being your own boss is no work injury insurance

More and more people make a living in the so-called "gig economy" or supplement their income through on-demand jobs. Rather than a single 9-to-5 job, income is earned from a series of short-term contracts or one-off tasks. Many on-demand gigs are computer-based, such as writing or graphic design, that can be performed anywhere with an Internet connection. Some let you hire out your own vehicle for rides or deliveries. Others are flexible, will-travel jobs - massage therapist, personal trainer, house cleaner, musician. Even traditional "lunch toter" work such as carpentry, painting, landscaping and furniture moving is available on a gig basis.

One key drawback of on-demand work is the lack of coverage for an on-the-job injury:

  • Full-time employees are almost always covered by workers' compensation.
  • Part-time employees are entitled to full workers' comp benefits.
  • Probationary employees are covered as if they were permanent or fully vested.
  • Temp workers are usually (but not always) covered by the staffing agency.
  • Freelancers and independent contractors are not covered by workers' compensation.
  • On-demand jobs are not typically eligible for workers' comp.

So what happens if you are injured while working a gig?

If you are not entitled to workers' compensation, you may still have legal remedies. You might be able to bring a personal injury claim against the party that is hiring your services, if they directly or indirectly caused your accident. You might have a claim against a third party such as a building owner who created a hazard, a motorist who caused a car crash or the manufacturer of faulty equipment. Lastly, you might have grounds to sue the party that hooked you up with the gig - such as an app-based company like Lyft, Postmates, Taskrabbit or GrubHub - if they put you in harm's way.

You will need legal representation to pursue damages for your medical expenses, lost income and other damages. An experienced work injury attorney can identify your possible claims and maximize your compensation. By the way, personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee - they do not get paid for their "gig" unless they recover compensation for you.

Source: Gig economy traveling faster than companies can comp insurers can keep up.

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