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Who pays for a casual worker's workplace injury?

While workers' compensation obligations are par for the course for British Columbia businesses with permanent employees, they also give rise to many questions for those who hire contractors or subcontractors. Who will be liable if a subcontractor suffers a workplace injury? Business owners can avoid having to pay additional insurance premiums by obtaining a clearance letter from WorkSafeBC that states whether the contractor is registered and paying workers' compensation premiums itself.

Business owners might not realize that although contractors have workers' compensation coverage for their workers, they might not be covered as proprietors or owners of the operation. This puts the business hiring the contracting company at risk of facing a lawsuit if the contractor suffers injuries in a workplace accident. Personal insurance protection for business owners is optional, and it might be a good idea to clarify this issue before the work commences.

This could be particularly problematic for small businesses. For example, the owner of a small inn hires an independent contractor to do some landscaping once or twice a year. This person then severs a finger in a chainsaw accident. Doctors are able to reattach the finger, but the gardener has no insurance, and neither does the owner of the inn. Can the gardener, who was a casual worker, then sue the inn owner to recover damages?

Casual workers in British Columbia who are not registered for workers' compensation have every right to consult with a lawyer who has experience in dealing with all matters related to employment law and workplace injuries. The lawyer can assess the circumstances and explain the available options. With the support and guidance of legal counsel, the injured worker can pursue the appropriate level of compensation under the applicable workers' compensation laws.

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