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Suing Contractors for Work-Related Injuries

Under Nevada law, an injured worker may file a civil lawsuit against a third party. However statutory employers or statutory co-employees typically cannot be sued.

Injury Liability for Independent Contractors

Under the “one action rule” or “exclusive remedy provision”, injured workers in Nevada can sue third parties who are responsible for on-the-job injuries if they are not employed by those third parties. To provide injury compensation for employees of subcontractors and independent contractors, the Nevada legislature designates general contractors on a construction job as principal employers responsible for providing worker’s compensation insurance. In exchange for the burden of ensuring insurance coverage for all statutory employees, general contracts are granted immunity from liability for workplace injuries.

According to the Nevada Supreme Court, statutory employers and statutory employees fall into two classifications: those with a Nevada Revised Statute Chapter 624 contracting license and those that don’t. The type of work performed by the subcontractor or independent contractor determines whether the employer is the statutory employer. If the business normally uses employees rather than independent contractors for certain jobs, the business is considered the employer. If a general contractor employs workers who perform duties not normally done by the general contractor, immunity from liability for injuries does not apply.

The “normal work test” used to determine third-party liability was first seen in 1985. Haughton Elevator regularly performed contracted maintenance on a building elevator for Central Telephone Company (Centel). An employee of Centel, Ruth Meers, was injured when the elevator in her building malfunctioned. She received worker’s compensation benefits for her injuries from Centel, her employer. However, she also filed a lawsuit against Haughton Elevator claiming that they were independent contractors for Centel.

Since 1985, Nevada has worked diligently to establish laws that clarify claims against statutory employers and statutory co-employees. While employers in contractor licensee cases are protected against liability for injuries and civil lawsuits by immunity, other injury cases must be carefully analyzed case by case to determine if immunity is a factor.

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