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3 things for truck drivers to know when injured on the job

Written by Steve Gursten Posted July 11th, 2013

As an injured truck driver, you have several legal options available to  help you

injured truck driver

I’ve represented a number of truck drivers in my legal career.  What the public sometimes fails to understand is that many truck accidents are caused by drivers of passenger cars – not the truck driver.

For whatever reason, people seem to sometimes make very regrettable and foolish decisions when driving around very large trucks. And sometimes a truck driver may exercise the highest degree of safety and respect for other motorists, but nonetheless becomes involved in a truck crash through no fault of his own.

Today I’d like to review some important legal recovery options for truck drivers injured in truck accidents as a result of the other driver’s negligence.

1. Workers’ compensation

This one gets tricky, since many trucking companies are pushing drivers to become independent contractors to avoid or minimize workers compensation payouts.  But at least in theory, if you are hurt on the job, one option is to pursue workers’ compensation. Most truck drivers hurt while driving will still fall under the workers’ comp umbrella, even those that the company calls independent contractors. Though the rules vary from state-to-state, you generally will receive three main benefits under work comp:

  1. Reduced wages while you are off work injured,
  2. Medical coverage and
  3. A settlement if your injuries are permanent (which hopefully, they are not).

Worker’s compensation is a difficult area of the law.  If you’ve been injured on the job, you should consider consulting a workers’ compensation attorney. The Truck Attorneys Roundtable can certainly provide the name of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who is familiar with trucking companies and drivers if you need help.

2. The at-fault driver’s insurance

A second option is a liability claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance provider.  The basis of the claim is going to be that the other motorist was negligent and at fault in causing the truck accident that caused you to be injured.

A good indication that another driver was negligent in causing a truck crash is when that driver broke some important rule of the road; i.e. speeding, crossing the center lane, failing to stop in time, and all the other things we see some motorists do to avoid having to drive behind trucks on the road.

Most states allow you to pursue both a workers’ compensation claim and an injury claim for pain and suffering compensation and other economic losses against the at- fault driver (almost always his or her insurance company) simultaneously.

However, workers’ compensation is generally entitled to a set-off and/or reimbursement for benefits it paid if you receive duplicative benefits. Depending again on the state, some workers compensation laws also allow reimbursement from compensation  by third party insurance for non-duplicative payments.

3. Your truck company employer’s insurance

Unfortunately, sometimes irresponsible motorists do not have insurance at all, or have very little insurance.  In this case, an injured truck driver may still have another valuable legal option. Commercial trucking companies are mandated by federal law to carry at least $750,000 in liability insurance. This is a minimum amount, and sometimes carriers will have insurance coverage in excess of this amount.

This becomes important because many of these policies will have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage that can help protect you and your family if you are injured by a driver with either no insurance or very little insurance.

What is uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage?

Check the policy, or hire an experienced attorney who knows how to find additional insurance.  Most employers have  uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.  This coverage contemplates this situation exactly – where you are injured by a bad driver with inadequate insurance, or no insurance at all.

Underinsured and uninsured coverage is generally not mandated. But in most states, in order to effectively reject coverage of this nature, a motor carrier is usually required to comply with a fairly technical set of state laws. If a company does not adhere to those laws, then sometimes their rejection of uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage can be found to be invalid.

Of course, adding another dimension to all of this is the fact that often times choice-of-law issues arise in these kinds of crashes – especially in the realm of workers’ compensation or if the other driver’s fault rises to a higher level of culpability where punitive damages may be available as an additional cause of action.

Legal help for injured truckers

When you are seriously hurt as a trucker in a truck accident that was not your fault, almost everything can seem very overwhelming at first.  There is a labyrinth of conflicting laws, which frustrates even the most patient people, but it’s important to know what your rights are.

If you are hurt and in need of assistance, you should consider contacting an experienced  attorney who has litigated trucking cases nationally and has the knowledge and sophistication to make sure that all of your interests are protected, and that you are able to get the benefits you are rightfully entitled.

Need help or have questions?  Call us at the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable at (844) 283-0656 (TAAR) for free advice today.

Related information:

8 tips to consider after an accident with a commercial truck

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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