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Workers' Compensation Update: Employee v. Contractor

Independent Contractor or an Employee? New Jersey Supreme Court’s Important Decision

By Michael Gorny, Esq.

The New Jersey Supreme Court made an important decision this week, on review of the case Estate of Kotsovska v. Liebman. In the case, Myroslava Kotsovska was hired as a live-in home health aide for an 89 year old man, Mr. Liebman, who needed help with everyday living.  Ms. Kotsovska was not authorized to work in the United States and her payments were unreported, an illegal but common practice.  Ms. Kotsovska was accidentally killed by being struck by a car driven by Mr. Liebman. 

In New Jersey, employees are generally barred from suing their employer for injuries sustained on the job.  Instead, they are entitled to benefits provided by Worker’s Compensation insurance.  However, this only applies to employees; it does not apply to independent contractors.  When there is a dispute as to whether an individual is an employee or independent contractor, the New Jersey Labor Department has been the decision maker.  Yet, the Supreme Court found that in Ms. Kotsovska’s case, a civil jury could make the decision as to whether she was an employee or an independent contractor.  Long story short, by allowing the jury to decide she was an independent contractor, they awarded her over $500,000 for her injuries in a civil lawsuit against Mr. Liebman.

The laws involving employment and worker’s compensation benefits are often changed, which makes it important to speak with an experienced attorney.  The decision whether to file a lawsuit in civil court, worker’s compensation court, or even both, may be different as the laws change.  

If you have a work place injury, call today for a free consultation with our NJ Worker's compensation attorneys. 800-709-1131