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Employer Liability: Crash Kills 15 in NYC

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 16, 2011 6:50 AM

Fifteen people were killed this weekend when a bus transporting passengers to and from Mohegan Sun Casino flipped over and slid hundreds of feet. Investigators are looking into whether the driver was speeding or fell asleep at the wheel.

It's virtually guaranteed that, right now, the Mohegan Sun bus company is looking into issues of employer liability. And you're probably thinking that there's no way to avoid it.

Well, you'd be mistaken. It's called hiring independent contractors.

It's a generally known fact that employers are legally responsible for most injuries and accidents caused by employees while on the job. This principle, however, is not absolute. It only refers to employees.

Because of the slightly more amorphous and less controlling relationship between the parties, employer liability usually does not cover independent contractors. If you have employees that work out of the office or on dangerous or sensitive matters, it therefore might be a good idea to look into independent contractor law.

Courts make a fact-intensive inquiry to determine whether a person is an independent contractor for the purposes of employer liability. The analysis mostly focuses on behavioral and financial control.

An employer does not provide training or instruction to an independent contractor. Instead, he gives a task and a deadline, allowing the independent contractor to accomplish the task in a manner seen fit. Independent contractors are also usually paid per job/task, receive no overtime, and pay for the cost of completing the job subject to any reimbursement agreement. They tend to own their own equipment and are not barred from working for anyone else.

Given the state of the law, one of the best options to avoid employer liability for situations like Mohegan Sun is to hire independent contractors when possible. It may give you a little less control, but it also gives you a little less liability.

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