Got Your Ears On? Why Illinois Truckers Need Legal Help When They Get Hurt
Hey truckers, we see you: you live hard lives. Very hard lives.
You work long, lonely hours on the road. There’s always an impatient #%&*! in a car at your back door or a Kojak with a Kodak waiting for you around the next bend. And when you get hurt on the job, you go down hard – throwing out your back lifting a box, snapping your ankle on an icy rest stop sidewalk, or, God forbid, getting hit by that impatient #%&*! at your back door. (No wonder the average life expectancy of a trucker is much lower than the national average.)
If you are hurt on the job, you might be wondering if getting workers’ compensation help is even an option when you are an indie owner/operator hauling freight from the Windy City to Shaky-Town. But it’s important that you:
- Consider getting workers’ compensation help no matter what paperwork you might have signed before you took on the job, and no matter what assumptions you have about whether you even qualify.
- Get legal counsel – now — before you file for workers’ compensation help. That’s because truckers face special pitfalls with workers’ compensation claims that a knowledgeable attorney can help you manage.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Law Might Be on Your Side
Chances are that as an indie owner/operator, you are technically not a full-time employee of the trucking company that hired you. But that does not mean you are ineligible for workers’ compensation. We just blogged about a case in Illinois where a trucker got workers’ compensation even though he was not a full-time employee of a trucking firm.
As we discussed on our blog, a trucker injured his back while delivering freight from Chicago to the East Coast for a transportation firm. Even though he was an independent contractor, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission said he should be treated like an employee and was therefore eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Why? Because the trucking company treated him as an employee. The company determined his delivery schedule, had the authority to discharge him at will, and required him to pass a pre-employment drug test as a condition of their working relationship. They exercised control.
What if the driver had just assumed he was not eligible for benefits because on paper he was an indie owner/operator? Good thing for him that he didn’t back out of it. You shouldn’t either.
But Your Insurance Policy Might Work Against You
Before you decide to go after a trucking company, realize that you need to proceed carefully. There are definitely some “gotchas” in the system that can trip you up like bad gas in your tank. For example, you might have signed a Truckers Occupational Accident Insurance Certificate when you started working with a trucking company. It’s supposed to cover independent contractors if you are hurt on the job. But if you file for a workers’ compensation claim, you just might invalidate the coverage you are eligible to receive under the certificate.
With legal help, though, you can get the best of both worlds: getting benefits from the Truckers Occupational Accident Insurance Certificate first – and then filing for workers’ compensation after you get the benefits. But you have to know how to work your way through this tricky process, which is like plowing through black ice. Do you really want to do this on your own?
Hurt on the job? You have more options than you think. But slow your roll and get legal counsel before you file that workers’ compensation claim. How you drive through this one can make the difference between making yourself whole or getting shut out. The choice is yours.
So Where’s The Justice? Right Here.
No obligation. Just good advice.