After reading my “Complicated Contracts of Dog Walkers” post, the PSI president Patti Morgan put me in touch with an expert on insuring pet sitters, Mr. David Pearsall of Business Insurers of the Carolinas. Mr. Pearsall has been working with PSI for a decade to protect pet sitters and pet owners.
He was able to give me some additional insights into these complicated contracts.
Mr. Pearsall was able to confirm that worker’s compensation generally only covers the injuries of pet sitters that are employees, not independent contractors.
However, if an employee does not have the trappings of an independent business (setting their owner hours, working for more than one company, having their own business cards) they are still considered an “employee” NOT an “independent contractor” under most state employee compensation laws.
Now would be a good time to point out the difference between worker’s compensation and worker’s compensation insurance.
- Worker’s compensation – The damages a business legally owes to an employee for injuries due to their work.
- Worker’s compensation insurance – Insurance a business purchases that helps them pay for worker’s compensation in case an employee gets injured.
Just because an employee’s injuries SHOULD be covered by worker’s compensation through worker’s compensation insurance doesn’t mean they WILL be.
Even if the business does have worker’s compensation insurance, in some states the wording in these contracts would allow the worker’s compensation insurance company to come after you.
Mr. Pearsall says that these cases should only be successful if they can show clear negligence on your part. However, we all know that even unsuccessful legal battles can be very expensive.
If a pet sitter truly is an independent contractor and they have not bought worker’s compensation insurance, you may be their only recourse if they get injured.
There are ways that independent contractors can protect themselves against the cost of work related injuries. Independent pet sitters can purchase individual worker’s compensation policies through insurance agencies or through worker’s compensation funds available in some states.
However these policies can be expensive making up to 5-10% of that pet sitter’s yearly salary.
Mr. Pearsall’s company has developed a more affordable alternative. Their Pet Sitter Occupational Accident Policy is directed specifically at pet sitters that are independent contractors and the specific risks they face.
Mr. Pearsall also made some comments about what you as a pet owner can do to protect yourself. In addition to increasing the coverage under your homeowner’s policy. You can usually get larger dollar amounts of coverage through additional umbrella liability policies available through many insurance companies.
However, he recommends you only hire pet sitters that can prove adequate worker’s compensation insurance.
I agree. If we could get rid of these clauses from pet sitting contracts all together, even better.
I will be speaking at the Pet Sitter’s International Conference in September to help educate pet sitters on how to stay safe on the job. Stay tuned for more information!