Driving a truck exposes the driver to the possibility of many different accidents and different injuries. Some of the accidents can be caused when driving. Other accidents may happen when the truck driver is loading or unloading the inventory and cargo. The reason for the accident isn’t a factor in North Carolina or Virginia workers’ compensation matters. If the truck driver was an employee, the accident happened while he/she was working for the employer and the resulting injuries prevent the driver from working – then the driver of the truck should be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers who suffer any type of trucking accident should review their claim with an experienced work injury lawyer. Attorney Joe Miller has been helping injured workers for over 25 years in North Carolina and Virginia. He’ll explain that truck drivers injured while working, if they are an employee, are entitled to payment for lost wages and medical bills. They may also be entitled to longer periods of benefits if they cannot return to work or if they suffer a permanent injury. Workers may also be entitled to vocational training if they can no longer work as a truck driver.
Common types of truck driving injuries
Many truck drivers suffer the following types of accidents:
- Collisions with other trucks, cars, and vehicle on the road
- Accidents due to driver fatigue
- Accidents because another driver was negligent such as failing to follow the traffic laws, eating or using a cellphone while driving, improperly changing lanes, running a red light, etc.
- Muscle sprains and strains while loading and unloading the shipping goods
- Falls while working at the loading docks
- Being hit and severely injured by heavy, falling cargo
- Injuries upon opening or securing the trailer doors
- Injuries upon exiting and entering the cab
- Injuries from lifting, carrying, pulling, and pushing inventory and goods
- Injuries upon attempting to secure bulky cargo onto flatbeds such as rebar or lumber
- Being crushed or harmed by forklifts
- Injuries occurring during pre-trip inspection
- Injuries occurring while trying to repair the truck or replacing a tire
- Injuries due to faulty equipment such as poorly maintained brakes or tires
- Many accidents don’t involve a third-party – just the driver. The cause of the accident should not affect the ability of the truck driver to collect workers compensation benefits. If a trucker is injured due to the fault of another driver or because a product malfunctioned, they may also have a direct third-party claim against the responsible party.
Workers’ compensation issues unique to truck drivers
Driving a truck is different than many other jobs in several respects. The truck driver doesn’t work at one site. Rather he/she often picks up the goods at one location and then drives cross-state or cross-country to another location. When the transport is done, the truck driver is assigned to another location for pickup and so on. Truck drivers may work for different companies as well making it difficult to know who the real employer is.
A couple of key differences are:
- Reporting the accident. Truck drivers do not have constant contact with their supervisor. There should be a methodology in place so a truck driver who is hurt while driving or while helping out with the shipment deliveries knows who to communicate with if an accident happens. Most employers have a team of doctors the injured worker can see near the place where they work. Since truck drivers are on the road, the employer and employee should understand which hospitals and doctors the injured truck driver can see if injuries happen while driving.
- Returning to work. Many trucking companies try to push their workers back to the job too early. Truck drivers should get clearance from their doctors for any type of work they do. It’s not enough to be able to drive again. They must qualify through the DMV for the Commercial Driver’s license. The truck driver has to be able to handle traffic emergencies and be able to help with the shipping and unloading duties. While doctors may qualify the truck driver for light duty work or work with restrictions, most trucking companies don’t have that much clerical work available.
- Light duty work. An experienced North Carolina or Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer can explain that the worker should get full benefits if light duty work is not available. Even if a clerical job is available, truck drivers who do that type of light duty work should get 2/3rds of the difference in pay between the harder, but usually higher-paying truck driving work and the clerical work.
- Jurisdiction. Because truck drivers may be hired in one place and drive all over the country, it is sometimes hard to determine where the worker’s comp case needs to be filed. What controls in VA is whether you were hired in VA (it could be over the phone), and also whether the employer has a place of business in Virginia, such as a terminal or yard. In NC, it’s whether the contract of employment was entered into in NC OR if the employer has its PRINCIPAL place of business in NC, OR the employee’s principal place of employment is within NC.
Common trucking industry injuries
- North Carolina and Virginia truck drivers are at risk for the following types of injuries:
- Death or serious injury due to a trucking accident.
- Broken bones and bruises because of an accident or falling or being struck by an object while doing the loading and unloading
- Muscle strains and sprains pain because of driving or due to loading and unloading or lifting or carrying cartons, boxes, inventory, etc.
- Injuries opening the cargo doors
- Injuries due to fatigue and demands by employer to deliver on time
Employee versus Independent Contractors
One of the key issues an experienced North Carolina or Virginia workers’ compensation attorney reviews with injured truck drivers is whether they were an employee or an independent contractor. The difference can mean getting benefits and not getting benefits.
Whether a truck driver is an employee, and thus entitled to benefits, or a freelance driver depends on many factors. Some of the factors our office reviews are:
- Does the company you work for control your schedule?
- Did the employer take deductions for taxes, social security, workers’ compensation, and unemployment compensation?
- Did the driver use his/her own truck or the company’s truck?
- Who pays for the gas and fuel?
- Who is responsible for repairs?
- How is the truck driver treated compared to known employees?
- Does the truck driver get medical benefits?
- Does the truck driver get vacation time?
- Whose DOT number is on the cab? The injured worker’s or the company he works for?
Do know that what the employer says about your status is not controlling. Even if an employer says you are an independent contractor, and even if you sign something saying so, you may still be an employee. The “facts on the ground” are what matter. An employer can never have you “contract away” your rights under the worker’s compensation act.
Make the call to a North Carolina and Virginia work injury trucking attorney today
North Carolina and Virginia workers’ compensation attorney Joe Miller Esq. is ready to take your call – even if you are calling from anywhere on the road. He has helped thousands of workers get justice for work injuries – for over a quarter of a century. He understands the issues that are unique to truck drivers. For help now, please call at (888) 694-1671 to speak to a trusted workers’ compensation attorney.