Are Truck Drivers Eligible for Workers’ Compensation?
The question of whether or not a truck driver is eligible for workers’ compensation is a bit more complex question than it may seem at first glance – but generally, yes, truckers can get workers’ comp. Just like any other employee, truck drivers can get reimbursed through the workers’ compensation system for damages that resulted from on-the-job injuries.
However, there are a couple of issues that can complicate this scenario a bit. So let’s start by taking a look at what makes trucking incidents a bit more complex than most workers’ comp cases.
Employee, or Not an Employee – That Is the Question
One key factor to consider if you are a trucker and wondering about whether or not you are eligible for workers’ comp is your actual employment status. There are truck drivers who operate as independent contractors or owner-operators of their own business. These truck drivers then pick up driving work through bigger trucking companies. If this is the case, then you are likely not an actual employee of the trucking company that you are hauling for because employee status is very different from independent contractor status.
You see, larger trucking companies that hire and use independent contractors as drivers are not technically the employer of those drivers. By definition, if you are an independent contractor, that means that you are a.) independent from any company that uses your service, and b.) contracting yourself out as a trucker (as opposed to being an employee.) And because you are not an employee of the larger trucking company, they are not obligated to give you any of the usual employment benefits – including workers’ compensation. In fact, not paying out benefits is one of the main reasons that companies of all kinds use independent contractors. It tends to lessen their overhead if they don’t have to pay benefits like health insurance, vacation days, unemployment, and workers’ compensation.
So that is the first question: Are you, in fact, an employee of the trucking company? If you are not, then you likely have no claim for workers’ comp if you get injured on the job and the buck stops here. If you are an employee of the company, however, the game changes.
If you have actually been hired as an employee by the trucking company that you are driving for, and you work for them and get paid W-2 wages (taxes taken out) by them, then you are just like any other employee of any other business and you would likely qualify for workers’ compensation if you get injured on the job. But what types of injuries are truckers most vulnerable to, and how does this affect workers’ comp claims?
Common Trucker Injuries
There are essentially two types of injuries that happen for people who work for trucking companies as drivers. The first category would include injuries that happen at any other time than when you are driving on the road. This would include injuries that result from loading and unloading cargo, tending to the truck, and other duties that are performed while not behind the wheel.
Slips and Falls
While you are at work and not on the road, you could have an incident that is referred to as a slip and fall. This would mean that, somewhere at your place of employment, someone let a situation occur that caused you to slip and fall at work. Maybe you were on the roof of your truck trying to fix something and slipped and fell. Or maybe you were simply walking through the corridor and slipped on something, thereby falling and hurting yourself. Whatever the cause, a slip and fall can result in very minor to very serious injuries that may require medical care. And if you were on the job when it happened, you are likely eligible for workers’ comp to help pay for related medical expenses.
Truck drivers, particularly those who load their own trucks, have a tendency to develop repetitive stress injuries. Lifting heavy cargo over and over again can injure many places on the body – particularly the back, shoulders, knees, and arms. Even driving for hours on end, day after day can result in back pain or joint pain. This pain may come and go for years, but after a certain amount of time, these injuries can become more severe and require extensive treatment.
By far, the event with the highest likelihood of causing serious injuries for truckers is a car crash. When huge trucks collide with any other type of vehicle, the potential for catastrophic injuries is high. And while the truck driver is generally in a more protected position than the driver of a passenger vehicle, the trucker can still sustain pretty serious injuries. Regardless of who or what caused the crash, the truck driver employee is entitled to workers’ comp if they suffer injuries from a crash while on the job.
What Can I Be Compensated For?
Compensation varies, depending on the circumstances surrounding your injuries as well as the severity of those injuries. Here are some things that you can collect for through workers’ compensation if you qualify as an employee:
- Medical bills and expenses
- Cost of Long or Short-Term Physical Therapy
- Prescription Drug Costs
- Lost Income / Wages
- Lost Benefits
Wrongful death is a benefit that can be received by your loved ones in the event that you die from the injuries sustained in your accident.
Contact an Experienced Workers’ Comp Attorney
So if you are a trucker who has been hurt on the job, don’t let your questions go unanswered. Speak to an experienced attorney at The Law Offices of David M. Benenfeld, P.A., who can help you navigate through the labyrinth that is workers’ compensation. You can call us directly, or contact us online today to schedule your free initial consultation. We will help you decide if you have a valid workers’ compensation claim or if there are any other paths to pursue to get the money that you deserve.