Workers' compensation for self-employed or independent contractors
Workers’ compensation insurance: Required in almost every state for businesses that have employees, workers’ comp can cover medical fees and lost wages for work-related injuries and illnesses.
People who work for themselves and don't have employees are generally not required to purchase workers' compensation insurance. However, someone who is self-employed might purchase a policy if:
A contract requires workers’ comp coverage.
Some businesses require anyone performing work for their company to carry their own insurance policies, including independent contractor workers' compensation insurance. This limits the company's liability, and the chances that the business will be on the hook financially if a contractor is injured on the job.
Workers’ comp can protect your income.
Even if you already have health insurance, most policies exclude coverage for work-related illnesses and injuries. Purchasing independent contractor workers' comp insurance ensures that if you're injured while working, your medical bills will be covered. Workers' comp can also help replace lost wages while you're unable to work.
Is workers' comp required if you have no employees and only hire subcontractors?
If you hire subcontractors, you may be required to purchase workers' comp coverage depending on how the laws in your state classify when workers are considered employees. Even if subcontractors have their own workers' comp policy, your state might still require you to provide workers' comp coverage for them.
How do you know if someone is a subcontractor or an employee?
The laws determining if a worker is classified as a subcontractor or an employee can be confusing, open to interpretation, and can vary from state to state. Traditionally, workers who receive a W-2 tax form are considered employees and those who receive a 1099 are contractors. However, you might be required to provide workers' compensation for 1099 contractors as well – depending on the laws in your state.
If a subcontractor working for you is injured and your state determines the worker should have been classified as an employee, you could face fines or even jail time for not carrying workers' compensation coverage, depending on the laws in your state.
Consider talking with a business attorney to make sure anyone performing work for you is properly classified, and that you have the appropriate level of workers' compensation coverage.
Are the laws governing workers’ comp the same in every state?
No, which is why it can often be confusing for the self-employed, independent contractors, and business owners with no employees to know when they might be required to purchase workers' compensation coverage.
For example, the state of Texas generally doesn't mandate that anyone purchase workers' comp coverage, but New York requires coverage as soon as a business hires one employee. It's important to read up on the laws in your state to make sure you are in compliance.
What are the penalties for failure to carry independent contractor workers’ comp insurance?
Every state has its own set of laws governing workers' compensation, including what the penalties are for failing to carry coverage. For example:
- In Arizona, you can be assessed a civil penalty of $1,000.
- In Massachusetts, you can face civil fines of up to $250 a day, criminal fines of up to $1,500, and jail time.
- In New Jersey, failure to carry workers' comp is considered a criminal offense punishable by a fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for up to 18 months.
Check with your state or your attorney to make sure you are classifying workers properly and, if required, purchase workers' compensation insurance to avoid these costly penalties.
Other insurance for self-employed and independent contractors
In addition to workers' compensation insurance, self-employed workers and independent contractors may need:
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