Help me - my boss is trying to screw me out of worker's comp and I'm a statutory employee!
February 10, 2011 9:00 PM   Subscribe

I work for a club in the San Fernando Valley and recently broke my ankle on the job. I am classified as 1099 but am actually a misclassified statutory employee and I think the the guy who owns the club and/or his insurance company is/are trying to cheat his way out of paying me worker's comp. and covering the cost of my pending operation.

I am a DJ at a club in the San Fernando Valley, a bit outside of LA. I was recently injured on the job when a girl and her boyfriend started fighting in the bar and I tried to separate them. It was 8PM - our security guys don't start until 9PM because the place doesn't really get going until 9:30 or 10. The boyfriend shoved me, I fell over a chair and broke my ankle.

1) I have been working at this club for 7 year. I've known for 5 that I was a statutory employee - I meet virtually all of the qualifications for one - but haven't tried to fight it. I need the money and the owner is a crazy old guy who I just haven't wanted to argue with. I work exclusively on his equipment, during hours that he sets, have managed other employees and lots more of the requirements. It's pretty much open and shut. Now that I am injured, he is trying to avoid paying me worker's comp because I'm (mis-)classified as a 1099 contractor - more on that in (2) below. I feel like this should give me some leverage, but I honestly don't know much and what I could stand to gain here in realistic scenarios. I have tried but failed to get more information from a lawyer on this, because four lawyers have essentially been too busy to talk to me.

2) I already have an ER visit and other medical bills to deal with. Now my doctor is saying I'm going to need an operation. The owner says the insurance company adjuster said that she would have to deny my claim because I'm a - again, misclassified - 1099, which they say means I'm not eligible for insurance. The owner says he told the adjuster that I'm "really good for business" and "begged for their help" and "managed to get them to keep it open for a few months" and in the interim, "you'll be covered for up to $10,000." What the hell does this mean? He wouldn't elaborate on whether the adjustor will take back that $10,000 if upon further review, they deny the claim again. I'm praying that I wouldn't, but honestly can't convince myself that I'm not being lied to.

I have not been able to get the adjuster on the phone despite close to a dozen calls. I've also tried four different lawyers, but can't seem to find someone willing to talk to me - but I don't want to just start dialing random numbers and ending up with an ambulance chaser. I'm still looking, and I recognize that no one answering the question here is my attorney nor giving specific advice, blah blah blah, but can you help answer some of the glaring questions in here?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total)
You don't need a personal injury lawyer. You need an employment lawyer.
posted by dhartung at 9:28 PM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

You don't need a personal injury lawyer. You need an employment lawyer.

Am I missing where he specified what kind of lawyers he was calling?

At any rate, either one of those is wrong. Anonymous needs a workers' comp attorney.
posted by amro at 9:52 PM on February 10, 2011

IANAL, etc. If you haven't already been there, here is the website for worker's comp in cali. You might be able to find something that will help, or maybe the helpline will be willing to listen to your situation and give pointers.

I am guessing that since you are misclassified as a contractor, that means boss hasn't been paying your share into the state insurance-stuff pool. It is, unfortunately, a separate issue from the injury. However, were I being cockblocked in such a manner, I would consider whether it would be possible to sue the boss for personal injury, not as an employee, but as someone who was injured on the premisis of the business (which, unfortunately, necessitates an ambulance chaser). Good luck.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:57 PM on February 10, 2011

Don't bother trying to talk to the insurance company yourself. As you indicate that you know, you need an attorney to represent your interests. Try here or here for a referral to an attorney who is competent to practice in the appropriate area in your jurisdiction.
posted by dersins at 1:00 AM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you should talk with (or line up) a CPA, too. You've got 7 years' worth of tax issues looming.

I'm not a lawyer, but is there a reason you haven't pursued the guy who actually caused the injury?
posted by Houstonian at 1:35 AM on February 11, 2011

As far as I understand it (IANAL, IANYL), misclassification is the fault of the employer. He could get in some serious trouble for th is; it's in his best interests to help you/shut you up. Lawyer up.
posted by notsnot at 3:11 AM on February 11, 2011

Don't let the club owner snow you with talk about what the insurance company says. The owner is liable to you, not his insurance company. If you aren't covered by his insurance, he'll have to pay out of his pocket. So what they won't cover is HIS worry.

Lawyer up indeed. Personal injury or work injury? Which works out best for YOU? Either way, the club pays. Are you potentially in trouble for going along with the mis-catergorized job? (I have no clue). It's a serious plate of beans you have there. Toot toot!
posted by Goofyy at 5:37 AM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lawyer lawyer lawyer. You need somebody on your side looking out for your interests who knows the system and deals with it on a daily basis. A lawyer will be able to get you positives and avoid negatives that you don't even realize exist. (For example, when I was injured due to somebody else's carelessness, my lawyer got the hospital to knock $1000 off the standard lien they filed against any funds I might recover, just by asking them to. Would I have known that asking was even possible? Heck no. That was $1000 extra to me that I wouldn't have gotten without my lawyer, on top of the fact that the settlement he got for me was about 5 times larger than the other party's original offer.)
posted by Lexica at 1:18 PM on February 11, 2011

P.S. This Answer from a previous AskMe could give you an angle on the misclassified 1099 stuff.
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 3:31 PM on February 11, 2011

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