The trucking industry is a dangerous one. Drivers, loaders, and mechanics, not to mention those who work in logistics or manufacturing, can all sustain injuries while on the job. While many workers are employed by larger companies, some drivers self-employed. Unlike employees who can collect workers’ compensation, a self-employed or contracted driver may be ineligible.
If you are a truck driver and you are hurt in the course of your job duties, there may be other options available to you. You may be able to pursue a personal injury claim or a product liability claim. Today, our Chattanooga worksite injury attorneys will break down what those options are, and what you can do if you’re injured on the job.
When is a trucker eligible to seek workers’ compensation for a work injury?
Truckers have to meet certain criteria to be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. There are four basic requirements that must be met:
- You must be classified as an employee
- You must have been injured on the job or while performing a job-related duty
- You must follow all deadlines and regulations for submitting a claim
- You must work for an employer who carries workers’ compensation insurance
A worker must be classified as an employee to receive workers’ compensation; independent contractors are not eligible for these benefits. Most truck drivers are employees of larger companies (even if they receive a 1099 form instead of a W2) and therefore eligible to collect, but self-employed truckers may not be. If you are unsure whether you are considered an employee, or if you think you may have been misclassified, bring your contract and applicable paperwork to your initial consultation, so we can help you decide which path is the best one forward.
To collect workers’ compensation, the employee must have suffered an injury that either happened on the job or was work-related. For example, if a trucker injures his or her back from loading and unloading cargo, that will classify as a work-related injury. Some injuries, such as those resulting from a collision or other type of impact, may be immediately recognizable as a work-related injury, but others may develop over time. Just because it takes a while for an injury to develop does not mean you cannot collect compensation for it.
Deadlines for submission
Filing for workers’ compensation benefits is a process and missing a step may affect your ability to collect. First, you must report your injury to your employer within 15 days. Your employer has one day to complete and submit the Employer’s First Report of Work Injury or Illness Form to the company’s insurance provider, which then reviews the claim. Generally, employees have up to one year to make a claim for workers’ compensation, because some injuries do not present with symptoms right away.
Requirements to provide workers’ compensation
Most Tennessee employers are required to provide workers’ compensation insurance. The responsibility of the employer to provide coverage is dependent upon other factors, such as the number of its employees, the type of business it is, and the type of work the employees perform. If your employer provides this insurance, you should be able to make a claim through it. If not, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit instead against the negligent party.
What happens if a trucker is misclassified as an independent contractor?
Because independent contractors are not normally eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, a trucker’s eligibility for compensation may be dependent upon how the employer has classified the trucker, as well as the nature of the trucker’s work.
An employee is a worker whose manner of work is controlled by his or her employer and is hired by an employer with the implication that employment will last until the employee decides to quit or is fired. An independent contractor, on the other hand, is a self-employed worker who has the right to sell his or her services to any client or customer under the terms of an agreement. The main difference between an employee and an independent contractor is the level of control an employer has over a worker. It is important to know the different characteristics of each type of worker in case an employer misclassifies the trucker as an independent contractor to avoid offering certain benefits.
Note that knowingly misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor is illegal, and your employer could get into serious trouble for it. Let us help you determine if you are an independent contractor or an employee according to the law.
Can travel affect a trucker’s workers’ compensation claim?
Because truckers travel nationwide, it is not abnormal for truckers who are employed in another state to suffer injuries in a different state. Where the injury occurred should not matter, however; the claim can be filed in the state where the injury occurred, in the state where the employer’s business is principally located, or in the state where you live depending on what is the most advantageous jurisdiction for your claim to be filed. Therefore, if you are employed by ABC Trucking in Chattanooga but get hurt in Arkansas, your claim could still go through Tennessee. Let us help you make that decision.
However, some employers may try to argue that the trucker did not follow the state-specific guidelines in the location where the trucker was injured to avoid paying a claim. While it is true that your claim could be denied if you were behaving recklessly or unlawfully, you should let us help you with these issues as the law can be complicated and easily misunderstood.
Does it matter if the trucker was at fault for an accident?
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault benefits program, so truckers can cause an accident and still receive workers’ compensation benefits. If the truck driver was engaging in unlawful or reckless behavior, such as driving while drunk or speeding through red lights, this could be problematic.
What options do truckers have if they cannot file for workers’ compensation?
If a truck driver cannot file a workers’ compensation claim, then he or she would need to file a personal injury claim instead. In the event of a crash caused by another driver, the claim would be against the other driver’s insurance company. If the injury was the result of a defective truck part, then the truck diver could file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer, or even potentially against the maintenance crew which handles truck inspections and repairs. We can help guide you to the right option for your needs.
At Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law, we pride ourselves on being accessible, knowledgeable, trustworthy. If you need help obtaining any type of workers’ compensation benefit, give our Chattanooga workers’ compensation lawyers a call today at 423-756-7923 or fill out a contact form. From Chattanooga to Cleveland, TN and throughout North Georgia, we represent injured workers in all surrounding areas.
Wagner & Wagner is one of the longest-established law firms in Chattanooga. With more than seven decades of proven legal experience, our law practice has steadily grown through repeat business, valuable referrals and a tradition of client satisfaction. Learn More