Can you as a primary contractor be held liable under your own workers’ comp policy should an employee of one of your subcontractors be injured, even if it’s a subcontractor that’s way down on the chain of subs? Courts have on numerous occasions said you are.
Many times the injured worker may even be a third of fourth level contractor, but if none of your subcontractors are carrying workers’ comp coverage, you, as the main contractor will see the claim hit your own policy.
This scenario is even more likely if the main contractor has substantial control over the sub’s employees. South Carolina’s Supreme Court made such a ruling recently.
Courts generally start with the subcontractor whose employee was injured and move up the chain until they can find a valid workers’ comp policy. Sometimes that could mean going through a series of subcontractors until a policy is found.
The best way to protect yourself as a main contractor (or even if you are a subcontractor that hires other subs) is to require that all of your subcontractors have a certificate of insurance. But don’t stop there; you should call the insurance carrier to see if the certificate is valid or if the policy has lapsed.
Another option is to build insurance coverage costs into the contract with your sub and then purchase the necessary insurance yourself.
In California you also have the option of checking with the State Contractors Licensing Board (www. cslb.ca.gov) to see if your sub has workers’ compensation coverage.