Back in 2009 this blog reported on the very topic of Workers Compensation insurance, stating that 1 and 5 businesses are breaking workers compensation laws. In my everyday practice, I feel like the trend is still prevalent in the construction industry. The main reason being is due to the exorbitant price of this insurance on contractors.
Workers Compensation is codified in Louisiana under Revised Statute 23:1021 et seq. There are a myriad of rules and definitions within this chapter of the code that would make any contractors head spin. There are a few key items to remember when classifying employees. First and foremost is that there is a presumption of employee status, as seen in La. R.S. 23:1044. This can be overcome by a number of factors which would make the worker, an independent contrator rather than a employee. La R.S. 23:1045 is where the law states that independent contractors and subcontractors are exempt from coverage. Although the price to insure all employees under workers comp insurance is high, the price that is paid if an accident happens to an uninsured worker is much higher. Furthermore, when the insuring companies do an audit at the end of the year of the status, there can be a hefty price tag for improper reporting.
I represent a number of clients who are learning the hard way that companies like LWCC and Louisiana Home Builders Association are not fun to litigate against for a contractor trying to make profits. These companies have either in-house attorneys or law firms who handle these cases day in and day out. There is almost no incentive for them to settle claims because there is no fear of pricey litigation. As for the contractor, attorney fee bills keep going higher and at the end of the day the contractor can pay double and triple of what they would have if they had properly reported or settled early.
So let this be a warning to all contractors who are trying to push the line when it comes to workers compensation insurance, its just not worth it. Just like fighting any insurance company, even if the insurer is wrong, they will fight to the bitter end to be proven so. Taking an early haircut, so that you can get back to making money in the industry, can be a win-win for your construction company.