What Happens if an Independent Trucker/Owner-Operator is Injured While Working?
Whether they are working for an employer or are an independent driver/owner-operator, truckers face a number of on-the-job risks that make the profession at higher risk than most others.
Obviously, driving on the road itself is a hazard. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) publishes annual statistics on motor vehicle crashes in the United States, including those involving trucks. The most recent data available is for the year 2020, during which there were 4,761 fatalities and 112,000 injuries in crashes involving large trucks. But for truckers, accidents are not just limited to the road. They can occur in parking lots, warehouses, and at other any other stops where they may load or unload their freight.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the trucking industry has a relatively high rate of workers’ compensation claims compared to other industries. The rate of workers’ compensation claims in the trucking industry was 2.6 claims per 100 full-time equivalent workers in 2019, compared to a rate of 0.8 claims per 100 full-time equivalent workers across all industries. However, this does not fully portray the true number of accidents and risk, as many truckers will not qualify for workers’ compensation due to their status as an owner-operator.
Determining the Liable Party
Truck accident cases are complex because of the numerous parties involved in the industry. Determining who is liable can be a difficult process for the settling parties. Depending on the cause of the accident, the fault could either be the truck driver, another driver on the road, a maintenance provider, a manufacturer or even multiple entities may share fault. All of these factors are weighed when liability is being assessed.
Employment Status May Make Difference
For a driver who is employed by a trucking company, the accident and claims process is typical and is usually handled directly by their employer. However, independent truckers/owner-operators may have a more complicated situation on their hands. More factors are potentially at play and need to be considered in the event they are an accident victim.
If an owner-operators is injured while working, they may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they are considered an employee under the relevant state law. The specific requirements for qualifying for workers’ compensation benefits vary by state and may depend on factors such as the nature of the work being performed, and the degree of control exercised by the trucking company over the owner-operators ‘s work.
If the owner-operators is not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, they may be able to pursue a personal injury claim against the trucking company or other parties who may be responsible for the accident. This could include claims for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages related to the injury.
The owner-operator should consult with an attorney who specializes in personal injury law to understand their legal options and to ensure that their rights are protected. An attorney can also help them navigate the claims process and negotiate with insurance companies on their behalf.
The Right Tools for a Transportation Related Settlement
Additionally, a representing attorney needs to consider if all needs have been met for an optimized settlement. Are any of the following services needed in order to get the maximum settlement and ensure that the medical portion of the settlement is protected?
- Lien Investigation and Resolution to determine if all medical bills have been addressed and negotiated
- Medicare Set-Aside Proposal to consider Medicare’s interests
- Medical Cost Projection Report if Medicare’s interest do not need to be considered
- Professional Administration experienced in handling both Workers Compensation and Third-Party Liability simultaneously
- Trust Advisor Services to protect public benefits
For questions about any of these services or best practices for preparing for a transportation related settlement, please call us at 877.725.2467 or contact Medivest here.