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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, such as statutory employers or statutory co-employees under certain conditions.

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: construction and non-construction. 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.

The Nevada Legislature adopted the Meers Rule to simplify the definition of a construction case as one involving work performed by a licensed principal contractor. In all other cases, the Legislature applied the Meers “normal work test” to determine if a principal contractor is obligated to provide worker’s compensation coverage for all employees of subcontractors. In all construction-related injuries, Nevada law makes it very clear that all construction cases must involve a licensed contractor.

Over the last 30 years, Nevada has worked diligently to establish laws that clarify claims against statutory employers and statutory co-employees. While employers in construction 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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