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Workers' Compensation

How Does Workers’ Compensation Work for Injured Truck Drivers?

— August 4, 2021

Truck drivers are often eligible for workers’ compensation in the same way all other employees are eligible. Beware of tactics frequently used to dissuade or deceive truck drivers out of workers’ compensation.

Workers’ compensation is designed to financially assist employees injured while on the job. Workers’ compensation is often associated with more dangerous jobs, like in factories or construction sites. However, any employee in any setting may qualify, including truck drivers. Truck drivers are somewhat unique because they do not have a definite workplace. Instead, truckers travel for work, often over long distances, and are rarely in one place for very long. This can create confusion when a trucker is injured on the job and needs workers’ compensation.

Truck drivers are often eligible for workers’ compensation just like any other employees. Workers’ compensation is a state-based program, and the laws surrounding workers’ compensation will vary from one state to another. A truck driver’s eligibility for workers’ compensation will depend on the state of their employment and possibly the state where their accident occurred. How the accident occurred and who was at fault may also play a role. In any case, an injured driver should consult with a truck accident attorney from their home state as the laws regarding workers’ compensation may be different.

Workers’ Compensation Coverage for Truck Drivers

The laws for workers’ compensation are often similar between jurisdictions, but many states have unique approaches to handling compensation for injured workers. In some states, workers’ compensation is legally required, and employees are barred from filing a personal lawsuit absent extraordinary circumstances. Elsewhere, employers are not required to provide workers’ compensation, and injured workers must find another way to get compensation.

Factors that may heavily influence the outcome of a workers’ compensation case for truck drivers include the location of the accident, who was at fault for the accident, and whether the trucker is an employee or an independent contractor. Workers’ compensation might not be available depending on where a trucker is employed and on the requirements of that state. In such cases, a personal injury lawsuit might be necessary to claim damages and compensation.

Are Truckers Eligible Employees for Workers’ Compensation?

Truckers may be eligible for workers’ compensation just like any other employee. However, many states make distinctions between employees and independent contractors. A truck driver’s eligibility for compensation may depend on how their employer categorizes their work. While typical employees are usually covered, an independent contractor might not be.

Contractors are not employees because they technically do not work for the “employer.” This may sound counterintuitive and often confuses workers seeking compensation. An employer works solely for a particular employer and is usually hired with the understanding that their employment will last until they quit or get fired. On the other hand, a contractor is self-employed and sells their services to customers under the terms of an agreement. Employees have employers, but contractors have customers and clients.

Truckers may fall into either category depending on the nature of their work. An owner-operator may own their own truck and contract with clients to transport goods in exchange for payment, making them a contractor. Truckers may also be employed as ordinary employees for a larger trucking company.

If a person is unsure how they are classified, they can look to certain hallmarks of employment to determine if they are an employee. Employees typically drive a truck owned by their boss, work for a single business or employer, receive benefits like health insurance, and work for an indefinite period of time. They also have the time, manner, and place of work controlled for them. If some of these factors are not present, a driver might be classified as a contractor.

How a Trucker’s Fault for an Accident Affects Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation for truck drivers will sometimes depend on who is at fault for the accident. Of course, this rule will vary by state, with some states employing a no-fault rule and others assigning blame. In no-fault states, it does not matter who caused a truck driver’s accident. The trucker could be entirely responsible for their accident and still recover workers’ compensation in these states. However, in states that look at fault, a trucker responsible for their accident might not be able to recover any workers’ compensation.

In states that require truck drivers have little to no fault, it may be necessary to investigate the accident to claim compensation. Truck accidents can be incredibly dangerous and may be caused by any number of factors. Long haul truck drivers sometimes fall asleep at the wheel when they cannot stop for rest. Other times, cars that suddenly cut off large trucks can be responsible for accidents because trucks cannot stop on a dime to avoid a collision.

How the Location of the Accident Might Affect Workers’ Compensation for Truck Drivers

Truck drivers often drive across multiple states as part of their job duties. It is not uncommon for truck drivers employed in one state to be injured in another. Because each state has its own system for workers’ compensation, the state in which a driver is injured may impact how or if they can get workers’ compensation. The type of insurance carried by the employer might dictate if workers’ compensation covers a worker injured in another state.

Semi Trucks
Semi Trucks; image courtesy of chrissharkman via Pixabay,

Generally, truck drivers are covered by their employer’s workers’ compensation wherever they go. Many states offer reciprocity with other states regarding workers’ compensation, so employees are always covered. To deny workers’ compensation for out-of-state injuries to employees whose job is to travel out of state defeats the purpose of having workers’ compensation to begin with. However, for truckers who travel within only one state, it may be necessary to double-check their employer’s insurance coverage.

Getting Workers’ Compensation for Injured Truck Drivers

To conclude, truck drivers are often eligible for workers’ compensation in the same way all other employees are eligible. Beware of tactics frequently used to dissuade or deceive truck drivers out of workers’ compensation. Employers have been known to intentionally misclassify truckers as independent contractors to avoid covering workers’ compensation. Employers might also falsely claim an out-of-state injury is not covered. A qualified workers compensation attorney in the truck drivers’ home state can help them get the compensation they need for any on-the-job injury.

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