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Are Truck Drivers Covered by Workers’ Comp After an Accident?

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Posted By DAM Firm | April 5 2023 | Workers' Compensation

Commercial truck operators are a lifeline for California. These drivers and their vehicles ensure goods and supplies get to and from the state each day, but there are times when truck drivers sustain injuries on the job. Here, we want to discuss whether or not truck drivers are covered by workers’ compensation insurance after a truck accident. This can get complicated, particularly when we start to examine the difference between being an employee at a truck company and being an independent owner-operator contractor.

Are Truck Drivers Covered by Workers’ Comp

Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Employees

The state of California has a robust workers’ compensation system, including strict laws about which employers must carry these benefits. In California, any employer with even just one employee must provide workers’ compensation benefits.

In the event a truck driver is a direct employee of a trucking company or another type of company, then they should be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits if they sustain an on-the-job injury. This includes injuries caused by a range of factors, including vehicle accidents, slip and fall incidents, repetitive stress injuries, chronic illnesses, and more.

If an employee sustains an injury, they should be able to receive payment for all of their medical bills associated with the workplace injury as well as a significant portion of their lost wages if they are unable to work while they recover.

The Battle Over Independent Contractors – Owner/Operators

One major problem with workers’ compensation benefits in the trucking industry is that independent contractors typically do not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits at all. Employers in California are only required to carry workers’ comp for direct employees.

California has been the epicenter of the battle between whether or not employers can classify certain individuals as independent contractors as opposed to employees. Often, employers use various tactics to retain independent contractors so as to avoid paying various types of benefits.

In 2019, a law was passed in California that essentially made all truck drivers automatically considered employees and entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, this was quickly appealed by trucking companies and other companies that use independent contractors on a regular basis. The law was overridden by a federal law that prohibited states from placing limitations on certain motor carriers.

This decision was appealed to an even higher court, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. This court reversed the earlier decision. The bottom line is that, currently, truck drivers are considered employees under California law. This could change because there are more appeals in the process. It is likely that this matter will end up in front of the US supreme court.

Speak to an Attorney Today

If you or somebody you love has been injured while working in the trucking industry, we encourage you to reach out to a workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. Recovering compensation after these incidents can be challenging, particularly when trying to determine whether or not workers’ compensation benefits are available. You need an attorney with experience handling work injury claims from both the workers’ compensation perspective as well as from the perspective of a third-party contractor. Your lawyer can help investigate the injury and handle the entire benefits process.

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