Q. We employ a husband/wife team to clean our office. We pay them on a monthly contract basis and provide a Form 1099 at year-end. Would we be liable for an injury they might suffer while cleaning? — C.K., Illinois
A. If these people are truly independent contractors (and not employees), then you would be liable only for injuries they suffer for which your organization is at fault. If it resulted in litigation, the injured person would have to prove that his or her injury was caused by your negligence.
If you instead assigned employees—rather than contractors—to perform these services, then any injuries the employees suffer would be covered under your workers’ comp coverage.
Workers’ comp has its tradeoffs. On the one hand, an injured employee is entitled to the benefits regardless of whether the employer is at fault for the injury. On the other hand, employees injured at work (even when the employer is at fault) have only the workers’ compensation system—not the courts—to turn to for recovery.
You’ll want to make certain those cleaning workers are independent contractors. While most liability insurance policies will cover you in lawsuits by injured independent contractors, they will not provide protection for injuries to employees.
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