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Are You an Independent Contractor or a Covered Employee?
In order for an accidental injury or an occupational disease to be covered under the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Act, there must be a valid employer-employee relationship. The employer-employee relationship is an area often used by workers’ compensation insurance carriers to deny an injured worker’s claim for benefits. The insurance company denies the claim by filing contesting issues with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. In the contesting issues form, the insurance company will set forth a general basis for its position that the claimed injury is not compensable under Maryland law.
Focusing on the employer-employee relationship, the insurance carrier may deny benefits claiming the injured worker was an independent contractor and, therefore, not a covered employee. The workers’ compensation attorneys at Jenkins, Block and Associates have had to litigate multiple cases where their clients were alleged independent contractors. The issue is often raised by an insurance carrier in cases involving drivers (over the road truckers, delivery, taxi), construction (roofing, brick layers, general labor), landscaping (lawn cutting, tree removal) and nursing (in-home private duty).
The issue is generally resolved by taking the case to a hearing before a Workers’ Compensation Commissioner. At the hearing, both parties (injured worker and employer/insurer) present their case by offering evidence in the form of testimony and documents. The Commissioner is charged with the duty of applying the facts of the case to the governing law in arriving at his or her decision. The decision is not made from the bench, but instead is sent to the parties in writing a few days after the hearing takes place.
When determining whether an injured worker is an independent contractor, a Commissioner will consider several factors under Maryland’s Workers’ Compensation law. The Maryland Court of Appeals has found that the primary factor is the employer’s power of control over the employee’s conduct. Whitehead v. Safway Steel Products, Inc., 304 Md. 67 (1985). Additionally, if an injured worker has a special skill or knowledge that reflects he was not subject to the employer’s direction, the injured worker will likely be found as being an independent contractor. Edith A. Anderson Nursing Homes, Inc. v. Walker, 232 Md. 442 (1963).
Establishing an employer-employee relationship is vital for injured workers in Maryland. When the lawyers at Jenkins, Block and Associates first meet with our workers’ compensation clients, we conduct an extensive interview in order to anticipate any and all issues that an insurance company may use to attempt to deny our client’s benefits. We advise our clients that insurance companies are under no obligation to make sure that an injured worker’s rights are fully protected. Most importantly, the lawyers and staff at Jenkins, Block and Associates maintain close contact with our clients in order to guide them through the complex workers’ compensation system.
We have four offices across Maryland and Virginia with trained legal professionals ready to assist you. Please CALL US at 1-800-243-2439 to be directed to the closest Jenkins Block & Associates location to you.
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