Does the New Virginia Workers’ Comp Requirements Help Employees?

By Peter DePaolis

Personal Injury Lawyers Explain Why Independent Contractors May Qualify for Benefits

Virginia’s General Assembly raised the penalty for employers who do not have workers’ compensation coverage for their employees. Under the old law, the civil penalty was $500 to $5,000, depending on how long the employer had been uninsured. This law was deemed not strong enough to protect injured employees, as some business owners chose to take the penalty over carrying insurance. As of July 1, 2014, the situation has changed.

The new law penalizes employers $250 for each day they are uninsured. The maximum penalty is $50,000, in addition to the costs of collection.

This increase should benefit Virginia’s workers, as the raised fines should be a disincentive to employers who may be considering forgoing workers’ comp insurance. According to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, employers in this state are required to insure their employees if they have more than two part-time or full-time workers.

Does Workers’ Comp Help Independent Contractors?

If you are an independent contractor who has been hurt on the job, you are not necessarily out of luck. The label you are given as “independent contractor” may be a misclassification. While you may be paid on a 1099, under the law’s broad definition of “employee,” you could be considered a regular employee of the company for workers’ comp benefits. The main factor of whether an independent contractor qualifies for workers’ comp is if “control” over the contractor is exercised by the employer.

The new law is beneficial to persons working as independent contractors. Virginia employers are required to cover the employees of any business or contractor that helps in their trade as if they were their own employees. If you are an independent contractor, it is possible for you to be insured under workers’ comp, depending on the circumstances of your work.

In fact, the law covers any person working for another company under a written or implied contractual agreement, regardless if the worker is employed lawfully or even unlawfully, such as employed minors or undocumented workers. As such, an independent contractor has a good shot for coverage in the case of an injury. Consult an attorney if you are an independent contractor hurt on the job and want to know about your chances of coverage.

Can I Make Any Additional Claims for Compensation if I am Injured on the Job?

Even if you are a worker in Virginia who is definitely covered under workers’ comp, it is still recommended that you review your situation with a personal injury attorney. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may have an additional claim under negligence law if a third party caused your injury.

Under the workers’ comp system, you cannot sue your employer and you cannot collect pain and suffering benefits. However, if the negligence of a third party caused your injury, then you may have a separate claim against the responsible party.

The only way for you to know if you have this third party claim is to discuss the circumstances of your injury with a lawyer. Since a confidential consultation is free at the law firm of Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis L.L.P, there is no reason not to have your specific situation reviewed. Our workers’ comp attorneys represent injured employees in both third party personal injury cases and workers’ compensation claims and appeals.


About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.