When is An Injury a Workplace Accident?
34% of all Americans work in the ‘gig economy’. The 21st century has brought new technology, new opportunities, and new challenges. Work is as old as agriculture, but the working world of today is wildly different from what it was even ten years ago. Telecommuting, Uber, and the new definition of the workplace have impacted a wide variety of people.
The challenges that people have are reflected in the law. Case law is constantly developing, and lawmakers institute new statutes every day to try and keep up with the times. As workers’ compensation lawyers, we want to help you stay informed.
OSHA’s Basic Requirements
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an injury, illness or ailment is considered work-related if “an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness.” This means that as long as you are working and you get hurt, there is a very good chance that you have a workers’ compensation case.
There are some exceptions, however. If any of the following are true, then it is not necessarily a workers’ compensation case:
- The employee is there as a member of the general public, and not working at the time
- The injury surfaced at work, but came from a non-work-related cause
- The injury or illness came from a voluntary program such as a blood drive or a basketball team
- The injury is a result of consuming food
- The employee was doing a personal task, such as grooming, at work
- The worker gets a mental illness
- The worker was commuting to or from work (with some exceptions)
In some cases, you can sue an employer if you became sick with something like the flu at work. It depends on the circumstances. For example, if you are working in an excessively cramped area or your workplace is constantly unhygienic, you may have a case. Getting the flu as a result of your coworker accidentally coughing on you probably would not be a strong case.
OSHA defines a work environment as a place where one or more workers do their jobs or are present as part of their employment. This can include physical locations, and the equipment or materials used by the employee.
Courts will look at employer control of the employee when they define if the case falls under workers’ compensation law. As we mentioned above, a crash on a regular commute from Cherry Hill into Philadelphia would probably not be workers’ compensation.
On the other hand, if an employee is traveling between two locations on the work premises, that could be grounds for a lawsuit. In addition, when an employer requires an employee to make special trips, the worker may have a case.
The Gig Economy
People are attracted to the gig economy because it gives them flexibility. One of the biggest downsides is that employers have more leeway in denying people workers’ compensation. Those who drive for services like Lyft or perform similar work are usually independent contractors. Independent contractors have little when it comes to worker protections.
This is where the notion of control comes in. Exactly how much control companies like Uber or Glamsquad have over their contractors is still up for debate. A few cases are going through the courts right now.
If you are not sure if you are an independent contractor, it may be useful to check New Jersey’s Employee/Independent Contractor Checklist and review your contract.
When you have been injured at work, you may find it valuable to contact an experienced attorney. They will be able to answer all of your questions. Understanding your case completely is important. Running the facts by legal counsel could help you know if you have a case.
The experienced attorneys of Rossetti & DeVoto, PC, want to help. If you have been hurt, you need a fighter in your corner. Our team is ready to work for you today. We offer free consultations, so contact us now.