Can I claim compensation if I am self-employed?

Updated: October 24, 2022

If you are an employee injured at work, you could claim financial compensation from your employer. But what are your options if you are injured at work when you are self-employed?

This article looks at how self-employed workers may still be able to claim financial compensation following a work injury.

See also: Making a work accident claim

Am I employed or self-employed?

Most workers will know their employment status, but there are grey areas. There is no strict legal definition of self-employment.

As a general rule you will be considered self employed if you have your own business, or you work in a profession, vocation or trade.

However, you could also be considered self-employed in any of the following apply:

  • You run a small business with no other employees
  • You run a business are responsible for the success or failure it
  • You provide your own equipment when doing a job
  • You are a freelancer
  • You work for several different companies
  • You are being paid a set amount to complete a specific task

You could be employed by another business or be an employee of a company you own. You might not have an employment contract, but if you have worked for a single company for some time, you might be considered to be employed by that company (for tax and legal purposes).

According to HMRC, none of the above tests are conclusive. From a tax point of view, you can read more about your employment status in the HMRC Employment Status Manual.

Can I claim compensation?

In order to claim compensation, you and your solicitor will need to establish that:

  • the defendant owed you a duty of care
  • the defendant failed in their duty of care
  • your injury resulted from this failure

By law all employers owe a duty of care to their employees. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 are two of the many laws and regulations that set out an employer's duties in more detail.

Many regulations also impose a duty of care on employers regarding the health and safety of visitors, members of the public, agency workers, self-employed workers and contractors.

Whether you can claim compensation as a self-employed worker will depend on the circumstances of your accident:

I was injured working on another company's premises

If you were injured while working at premises owned or operated by another company, you may be entitled to claim compensation. Whether you are a cleaner working in an office or a contractor on a building site, the company responsible for the premises probably owes you a legal duty of care.

You may also have a claim if you were injured by something out of your control. For example, if you were asked to work in an unsafe environment, without guidance or training before commencing a job, or you were injured by another contractor or an employee's negligence.

If you spend most of your time working for one company, under their instructions, that company is more likely to owe you a duty of care.

I was hurt by defective equipment

You may be entitled to claim compensation if you were injured in a work accident involving faulty equipment, tools or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

If the equipment was supplied by another party (e.g. a building site developer), you may have a strict liability claim against that company. Strict liability means that the company did not need to have been negligent in their failure to check the equipment, they are liable regardless.

Strict liability also applies if you bought the defective equipment yourself. In this case, you may be entitled to claim against either the retailer that sold you the product, the manufacturer or the distributor.

I was hurt working at home, or on public property

Whether you can claim compensation under these circumstances will depend on the cause of your accident. If another party owed you a duty of care, you may be able to make a claim.

Even if you are not sure you have a valid claim, you should still consider speaking to us to discuss your options.

Call us on 0800 218 2227 for more information.

Who would pay the compensation?

In almost all cases, work injury compensation will be paid by an insurance company. Which party's insurance, however, will depend on what happened.

Compensation paid for an accident on another company's property would usually be paid out under that company's public liability insurance.

Compensation for injuries caused by a defective product could be paid out by the insurer of any of the following:

  • The business that provided you with the equipment (e.g. an office providing PPE to a cleaner),
  • The retailer that sold the equipment,
  • The distributor that imported the equipment, or,
  • The manufacturer

Compensation for an accident on public property (e.g. a council-operated park or pavement) will usually be paid by the local authority's insurance provider.

Your solicitor will advise you on which party you should claim compensation against.

What are my health and safety duties if I am self-employed?

From October 2015, many self-employed workers are largely exempt from health and safety regulations. You could be exempt if you:

  • Do work that poses no risk to the health and safety of others (like a freelance writer working from home)
  • You do not work in any one of a prescribed list of jobs, including agriculture, construction and gas

If you are exempt, you will probably not need an accident book or to complete regular safety assessments. Even if you don't technically have to carry out health and safety checks, it is still a good idea to do so to make sure your home office or work area is safe.

What if I work in a high-risk industry?

If you work in certain industries, doing "high-risk activities", you must still observe applicable health and safety rules even if you are self-employed. The specific duties you must observe will vary depending on your job.

High-risk activities include:

  • Forestry
  • Working with livestock for agricultural use
  • Working with gas or electrics
  • Construction
  • Railway maintenance
  • Working with asbestos

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) can provide more detail on your legal duties.

What should I do if I'm injured as a self-employed worker?

If you are self-employed and you were injured at work, there are several steps you should take as soon as you can:

Report the accident

All work accidents should be reported (even if you are self-employed) for several reasons:

  • Someone can take action to prevent further injuries occurring
  • By law, many work accidents must be reported to the HSE
  • You will have an official record of your accident (e.g. in a company accident book)

Get medical attention

Even if you received first aid at the scene of your accident, you should visit a GP, doctor or A&E as soon as you can. A medical professional will be able to assess your injuries properly and will recommend treatment as necessary.

Your medical records will also clearly set out the nature and severity of your injuries. This is very useful evidence in support of a compensation claim.

Keep a record of the accident

You should document as much as you can about the accident, including:

  • Contact details of any witnesses
  • Photos of the accident scene, and of your injuries
  • A copy of the accident book report (if possible)
  • Notes about what happened in your own words

How much compensation can I claim?

Whether you are self-employed or employed, your compensation would be calculated based on your type and severity of your injury.

Compensation awards do not vary depending on who is liable. Your compensation may be reduced if you were found to be partly responsible for your injuries (e.g. you were hit by falling debris but failed to wear a hard hat).

Compensation is calculated in two parts:

  • General damages - paid in respect of the pain, suffering and "loss of amenity" you have experienced. The figure is worked out with reference to a table of official guideline amounts.
  • Special damages - awarded for financial losses caused by your accident, including lost earnings, travel expenses and treatment costs.

Our injury compensation calculator checks if you have a claim, sets out what you can claim for and how much compensation you could claim.

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No win, no fee injury claims for self-employed workers

You will usually be entitled to make a work accident claim on a no win, no fee basis - even if you are self-employed.

No win, no fee means that your solicitor's legal fees will only be paid if your claim is successful and you receive compensation. If your claim is not successful, you will not have any legal fees to pay whatsoever.

Have you been injured at work?

If you have been injured at work in the last 3 years, you may be able to claim financial compensation.

Find out more about making a work accident claim:

  • Do you qualify?
  • How much compensation could you get?
  • How does No Win, No Fee work?

Read more: Work accident claim guide

Get the right advice

Our work injury advisors will:

  • Offer free, impartial advice
  • Explain how No Win, No Fee works
  • Recommend the right solicitor
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