According to The Balance, plumbers “install and repair pipes that supply water and gas to, as well as carry waste away from, homes and businesses.” Plumbers also fix appliances, toilets, sinks, and bathtubs. A few common plumber tasks include:
- Install pipes and plumbing fixtures
- Visually inspect equipment and operate test equipment such as pressure and vacuum gauges to determine the cause and location of trouble
- Clear obstructions from sink drains and toilets
- Troubleshoot problems and decide how to fix them
- Repair pipes and plumbing fixtures
- Estimate costs of installations and repairs
- Present recommendations and related pricing to customers
Plumbers don’t work out of an office. They regularly travel to other people’s home, to businesses, and to factories. They usually work indoors – though they may need to inspect connections to sewer lines and other outdoor activities. Most plumbers work full-time. Many work long weeks, often in the evenings when people are home, and often more than 40 hours a week. Many plumbers need to rush to a site when there is an emergency. And many plumbing repairs are emergencies.
What injuries do plumbers suffer?
Plumbers often need to take time off from work to treat various musculoskeletal injuries and occupational illnesses including:
- Exposure to dangerous chemicals and toxins – such as mold, asbestos, lead, and sulfur dioxide
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Injuries caused by working in confined spaces
- Injuries due to heavy lifting can carrying heavy tools and equipment
- Electrical shock and electrical exposure injuries including injuries caused by power tools
- Injuries due to extreme temperatures such as working in a home that doesn’t have any heat
- Hearing loss and injuries that damage the ear
- Injuries due to flying particles can cause vision loss
- Burn injuries caused by exposure to combustible and flammable materials
- Infections and diseases due to exposure to raw sewage, biohazards, and animal droppings
- Injuries due to working from heights
- Slip and fall injuries
- Trip and fall injuries
- Thermal, chemical, and electrical burn injuries
- Broken bones, head trauma, and other severe injuries if a plumber gets into an accident
Often, employers will argue that a plumber’s injuries are not related to the plumber’s work or that the worker had a pre-existing condition. They may try to argue, usually incorrectly, that a plumber who is injured while driving to or returning from a job shouldn’t be compensated.
Are plumbers employees or independent contractors?
It’s a common question. Employees are generally entitled to claim North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation benefits if they are an employee. Independent contractors are generally not entitled to claim workers’ compensation benefits. So, what is the difference?
As mentioned elsewhere on our blog posts, whether one is an employee or independent contractor can sometimes involve analysis of numerous issues, but at its essence, it all about the issue of control. Does the plumber have the to control what jobs he will attend to and in what order? Does he or she have the ability to show up for work at his or her discretion? Does the plumber own all of the major equipment utilized to service each job, including the vehicles utilized to transport the plumber and his or her equipment to service each location? Is the plumber paid “per job” via an invoice that he or she draws up for the customer? Does the plumber work for different contractors or homeowners, rather than for just one company? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then that would tend to show that the plumber is not under the control of those whom he may work for and is therefore an independent contractor.
On the other hand, if the plumber is required to follow certain safety rules instituted by the company he or she works for, required to wear, while working, a company-issued uniform, is paid by the hour rather via invoice, does not own any of his or her equipment other than maybe a few personal tools, and is directed by his supervisors where and when to show up to work, and works exclusively and full-time for this one company, these are indications that the plumber is an employee of that company.
It matters not if the employer has the employee sign a document saying that he or she is a subcontractor. The Commission will look beyond such attempts to circumvent the system and look at the facts. If they tend to prove the plumber is an employee, then the Commission will so find, no matter what he or she may have been required to sign.
Our work injury lawyers understand the fine distinction between employee and independent contractor status
Workers’ compensation benefits for plumbers
Plumbers in both North Carolina and Virginia are entitled to the following benefits if they are injured while working as an employee and in the scope of their employment:
- Temporary total disability benefits. (TTD) Plumbers who qualify for workers’ compensation are entitled to 2/3rds of their average weekly wages for up to a maximum of 500 weeks while unable to return to their job.
- Temporary partial disability benefits (TPD). If the plumber is able to return to work after the injury, but is earning less due to work restrictions from the work injury, then he or she is entitled to 2/3rds of the difference between his or her pre-injury average weekly wage, and the light duty wage received in the modified job. These benefits can also continue for a maximum of 500 weeks, minus whatever TTD benefits have already been received.
- Permanent partial disability benefits. (PPI) Once a plumber’s medical condition reaches the point of maximum medical improvement, depending on the type and severity of the injury, the plumber will be evaluated in order to quantify the level of permanent injury and the severity of the injury in the specific body part in question. This is typically expressed in a percentage rating which is percentage is then multiplied times the maximum number of weeks of North Carolina and Virginia list for the specific affected body part. For instance, if one has been rated as having a 20% permanent partial disability in the right leg, then in Virginia you take the maximum benefits for the leg, which is 175 weeks, times 20%, which would be an additional 35 weeks of temporary total disability pay. If agreed upon, this may be provided to the worker in lump sum.
- Medical benefits. Plumbers are entitled to payment for all their reasonable medical expenses – for as long as they need medical care, which may be for life. These payments are due even after the plumber reaches the state of maximum medical recovery provided the treatments are helping the plumber and preventing his/her condition from getting worse. Medical payments cover ER care, hospital care, visits with physicians, physical therapy, vocational therapy, assistive devices, medications, and other medical care.
- Vocational rehabilitation. If a plumber cannot return to his/her job due to a workplace accident or an occupational illness, the plumber may be required to engage in vocational rehabilitation. Although in some cases, these are considered “benefits,” in that they requirement payment by the carrier for the worker to learn new skills and obtain an education, unfortunately, most workers compensation carriers do not utilize vocational rehabilitation as a benefit to the injured worker. It is typically utilized by the workers compensation carrier as a tool to harm the injured worker’s case.
- Travel benefits. Worker’s compensation generally pays for the cost to travel to and from healthcare providers that are far away from their homes – generally about 20 miles or more away from home. The payments are based on a rate per mile that is determined by the respective Workers Compensation Commission in VA or NC and changes periodically based on upon the surveyed price of gasoline.
At Joe Miller Law Ltd., our Virginia and North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer has helped thousands of injured employees obtain strong recoveries. We’ve been helping injured workers for more than 30 years. Our team works with your doctors and independent doctors, when necessary, to understand your medical injuries and illnesses, the type of medical care you need, and the cost of that medical care. To discuss your workers’ compensation rights, call attorney Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295 or use my online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
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