Mensah v. CorVel Corp. – Workers’ Comp for Self-Employed

Those who are self-employed in North Carolina do not necessarily have to carry workers’ compensation insurance for themselves as sole proprietors or their partners or co-members of an LLC. That’s because these individuals are not automatically considered “employees.” However, it’s still generally a good idea, especially if the work involves moderate to severe risk of injury.
Because the potential for a violation of law is high on this point, it’s important for small business owners to consult with an attorney to ensure they have secured the proper coverage, if necessary.

Even then, self-employed individuals may find it difficult to collect on that coverage if it’s necessary. Here again, employing an experienced legal team to help navigate the process can be well worth it, as there may be unforeseen complications in these cases with which other “regular” employees may not have to grapple.

One such example was seen in the recent workers’ compensation case of Mensah v. CorVel Corp., before the Nevada Supreme Court. Be mindful that workers’ compensation laws vary from state-to-state, but the same general principles are applicable.

According to court records, claimant was a self-employed delivery driver who contracted with a large delivery carrier service to handle one of its regular routes. Under the service contract he kept with that carrier, he was required to carry his own workers’ compensation insurance, which he did through the defendant in this case.

One day while delivering packages, claimant fell. As a result of that fall, he injured his shoulder. He made a claim for workers’ compensation for that injury, which was covered, and he received medical treatment.

He was later released to light work duty, but his injuries were such that he still couldn’t continue his delivery route. In order to honor his contract, he hired another driver as a replacement until the contract period was over.

He then requested temporary disability benefits. However, this request was denied by the insurer because he’d actually continued to receive the same compensation from the carrier that he had before. The problem was he wasn’t receiving that payment because it was going to the replacement driver.

In an administrative appeal, the appeals officer denied both a request for temporary total disability benefits and temporary partial disability benefits on the grounds claimant showed no documentation indicating he’d paid himself $1,425 weekly prior to the accident, and therefore, there was no evidence of his pre-injury and post-injury salary.

A district court denied a petition for review, and thus the case moved to the state supreme court for consideration.

Court noted first it was indisputable claimant was eligible for temporary disability benefits, based on lost wages resulting from the industrial injury. However, the appeals officer had noted he wasn’t entitled to benefits because he couldn’t establish his salary from corporate and personal tax filings and he didn’t have any pay stubs to prove how much he made.

But this made sense because he was self-employed. He didn’t pay himself a “salary” in the usual sense. Thus, claimant was entitled to provide evidence of his earnings outside the typical form of proof, by giving a fact-specific analysis of his business and expenses.

Here, the state high court found the appeals officer erred in finding there was no basis to calculate claimant’s average monthly wages and therefore lost income.

For this reason, the state supreme court reversed the district court’s order denying judicial review, and ordered the district court to remand to the hearing officer for a determination of lost wages and payment thereof.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Mensah v. CorVel Corp., Aug. 6, 2015, Nevada Suprem Court

More Blog Entries:
Fernandes v. DAR Development Corp. – Trench Collapse Work Injury Lawsuit, Aug. 5, 2015, Charlotte Work Injury Lawyer Blog

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