The Importance of the Distinction Between an Independent Contractor and an Employee in a Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Case

The difference between an independent contractor and an employee is an important distinction in Washington, D.C. personal injury cases because an injured person’s ability to recover may be limited based on the negligent actor’s status. The following case shows how the plaintiff’s ability to recover compensation from his employer was limited by the wrongful actor’s status as an independent contractor.

In that case, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of injuries he suffered while working on his property. According to the record in the case, the defendant owned and operated a construction business, and the plaintiff was an employee of the defendant’s company. The defendant sometimes offered employees work at his home outside of normal work hours. One day, the plaintiff and his coworker went to do maintenance work, and among their tasks, they were told to burn the brush in the yard. The plaintiff attempted to do so by standing on top of a large pile of logs and throwing gasoline on the brush. The brush “blew up,” causing him to fall back and burning his skin with severe burns.

The plaintiff claimed that the defendant was liable because he failed to supervise the burning of the brush, he had gasoline available to use, he did not train the plaintiff on how to properly use the gasoline, and he did not train his coworker on how to properly use the gasoline or supervise others properly. He also claimed the defendant was responsible for his coworker’s negligence acts under respondeat superior. The defendant argued he was not liable for any of the coworker’s acts because he was an independent contractor rather than an employee.

In this case, the defendant agreed to pay the plaintiff and his coworker for a fixed amount to perform maintenance at his home. There was no evidence that the defendant maintained the right to tell the plaintiff or his coworker how to complete the job, and the defendant was not there when they were working. Therefore, the court found that they were both independent contractors when the plaintiff was injured, and consequently, that the defendant was not liable for the acts of the coworker.

How Washington, D.C. Law Applies

Under Washington, D.C. law, whether an individual performs work as an employee or as an independent contractor depends on the particular facts of the individual case. Washington, D.C. courts have said that courts should consider the selection and engagement of the worker, the payment of the worker’s wages, the power to discharge the worker, the power to control the worker, and whether the work is part of the employer’s regular business.

Contact the Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen for Immediate Assistance

If you have been injured in a Washington, D.C. car accident, or another type of accident, you cannot afford to take any chances. The Washington, D.C. accident lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen take pride in advocating for the rights of victims. With decades of combined experience, Lebowitz & Mzhen attorneys understand the complex issues that arise in personal injury cases. We also understand the difficulties you face and will strive to reduce the stress on you as much as possible to help get your life back on track as quickly as possible. We handle all types of cases, including Washington, D.C. premises liability claims, car accidents, and instances of medical malpractice. For a free consultation, call us at (800) 654-1949 or contact us online.

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