Construction Workers’ Comp: What If I Don’t Know My Employer?
Construction work is a dangerous business with a high rate of work-related injuries. So, it seems as if all those working in construction should be protected with construction workers’ comp.
However, many construction workers aren’t sure who employs them, so they don’t know who to turn to when they need to report a work-related injury or file a construction workers’ comp claim.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve spoken to injured workers and had a conversation like this one:
Victim: “I have a back injury.”
Attorney: “I’m sorry to hear that. Who is your employer?”
Victim: “I was hired by Frank Smith and was paid in cash.”
That’s all they know. They don’t know the company Frank Smith works for. This is critical information since the company that hired Frank Smith is likely the company that we will need to file a construction workers’ comp claim against.
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that these injured employees have done something wrong. That’s not the case at all.
The construction industry is notorious for hiring contractors and then subcontractors. A major project often requires many individual jobs to get the job done.
As a result, sometimes the main company gets lost in translation.
The problem is that the further you get down the line, the less likely the employer will have construction workers’ comp.
Under Georgia workers’ comp law, any business with three or more employees, including regular part-time employees, must have workers’ comp insurance.
But, if Frank Smith is working for a company with construction workers’ comp insurance, and he hires two subcontractors, is Frank required to have workers’ comp insurance?
That’s where it gets confusing.
So, what do you do if you have been injured on the jobsite during work hours but don’t know who you are actually employed by?
Let’s break it down.
Why Construction Workers’ Comp Is Important
The construction industry is one of the most dangerous industries and accounts for numerous injuries and fatalities each year.
Consider the following statistics:
- According to the CDC, “In 2019, 11.4 million U.S. workers were employed in construction, a 25% increase since 2011.”
- Big Rentz found, “Injury and illness rates in construction were 24% higher than they were across all industries on average in 2020.”
- Big Rentz also found, “In 2020, there were 174,100 cases of injuries in the construction sector.”
- OSHA reports, “5,333 workers died on the job in 2019 (3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers) — on average, more than 100 a week or about 15 deaths every day. About 20% (1,061) of worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2019 were in construction – accounting for one in five worker deaths for the year.”
Given these statistics, it’s easy to see why workers’ compensation insurance should be a priority for construction workers.
Workers’ compensation helps employees secure benefits if injured on the job, according to Georgia workers’ comp law.
Georgia workers’ compensation insurance is designed so that workers can be compensated for medical treatment, rehabilitation, loss of income benefits, and permanent disability if workers suffer a workplace injury.
Additionally, workers’ compensation may provide benefits to dependents of work-related death victims.
Many people don’t understand that Georgia’s workers’ compensation law is also designed to protect employers.
If employers carry workers’ compensation insurance, they won’t be held financially responsible for the costs associated when an employee is injured on the job. However, if they don’t carry workers’ compensation insurance, they may be held personally liable.
However, as we mentioned, many of these construction employers are fly-by-night and don’t actually carry construction workers’ comp insurance.
So, we have to find out who hired the boss to file a claim against them.
How to Determine If Your Employer Has Construction Workers’ Comp Insurance
Ideally, before you begin working on any job, you’ll check to make sure the employer or company has workers’ compensation insurance.
You can ask your employer directly or verify your employer’s coverage with the legal business name at www.sbwc.georgia.gov.
Let’s say you are in a situation like many of the other construction workers we’ve represented. You know who hired you, but you don’t know whom this person works for.
For example, Frank Smith hired you to do some electrical work for some new condominiums. Unfortunately, Frank Smith may not have workers’ compensation insurance.
We’ll need to find out who hired Frank Smith to file a claim against them (also known as statutory employment).
Statutory employers are companies that hire contractors. These companies become liable for workers’ compensation insurance coverage as statutory employers if the subcontractor fails to carry workers’ compensation insurance (i.e., Frank Smith).
Statutory Employers, Contractors, and Subcontractors
Unlike traditional businesses, the construction industry operates on several different levels of employment and workers’ compensation insurance.
Statutory employers are businesses or business owners that employ subcontractors to perform work for, or on behalf of, them.
Accordingly, if the direct employer failed to get workers’ compensation insurance, the liability then falls on the person or company who hired them – the statutory employer.
Think of it this way: a statutory employer stands in place of the direct employer when the direct employer failed to do something they should have done – carry workers’ compensation insurance.
A General Contractor hires a Subcontractor to perform something that is considered part of the General Contractor’s contract (such as electrical work). Since the General Contractor hired this person to work, he is a statutory employer, and the Subcontractor is a statutory employee.
If the Subcontractor is injured on the job, the General Contractor would be liable for paying construction workers’ compensation to the injured Subcontractor.
Essentially, the statutory employment relationship is designed to protect employees from missing out on workers’ compensation benefits due to an employer’s lack of insurance.
Tips for Identifying Who Is Responsible for Construction Workers’ Compensation
It shouldn’t be this complicated, but it is. That’s why it is wise to know whom you are working for before anything happens. It’s a lot harder to track down whom to file a claim against when you are in pain and frustrated.
Use these tips the next time you take on a new construction job.
- Ask if the new employer has workers’ comp insurance.
- Get the legal business name.
- Make a note of a mailing address for the employer.
- Take a picture of the license plate of the employer’s work truck.
- Get the contact information for co-workers, even if just cell numbers.
- Take pictures of other work trucks on the job sites, as we can use those company names to track down the statutory employer.
- Know the address of the job site, or at the very least, how to get to the job site.
Hire a Construction Workers’ Comp Attorney Right Away
Construction workers’ comp in Georgia (and every other state) is complicated.
If you don’t know who employs you, you may be taken advantage of and miss out on the benefits and medical care you rightly deserve.
It is crucial to hire an experienced construction workers’ comp lawyer who has extensive knowledge of the laws, insurance companies, and doctors involved in these types of construction workers’ comp cases.
[Related Read: 5 Reasons to Always Hire a Lawyer for a Workers’ Comp Claim]
It’s proven that injured workers represented by skilled workers’ compensation lawyers get significantly more benefits and higher settlements than those who don’t hire lawyers.
At DeMedeiros Injury Law, we have dealt with many clients who do not know exactly who employed them. We’ve helped them find out whom to file their workers’ comp claim against and fought for medical care, income loss benefits, and more.
If you’ve been injured on the job, contact us today for a free, no-strings-attached consultation.
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