Workers’ compensation is for truck drivers who are injured on the job — and not just in truck accidents
Trucking is a huge industry in the U.S., and it’s only getting bigger. The American Trucking Association estimates that there are 3.5 million professional truck drivers nationwide.
Trucking isn’t risk-free, though. The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks driving as the deadliest profession, estimating that there are about 1,000 fatalities per year from driving occupations.
You already know that truck driving can be hazardous because of the possibility of an accident. But there are other health hazards related to the profession.
Workers’ compensation guarantees benefits to an employee if they’re injured at work. Most employers are required to provide workers’ compensation coverage to employees, though the specifics vary by state.
What are workers’ compensation benefits?
In general, workers’ compensation covers the following:
- Medical treatment, which includes doctor or hospital visits, diagnostic testing (such as MRI, CT scans, ultrasounds, X-rays, and blood tests), surgery, prescription medication, medical devices and prosthetics, ongoing therapies, and other costs.
- Lost wages, including past, present, and future earnings.
- Death benefits, which include some funeral expenses and a percentage of weekly compensation to surviving dependents.
Workers’ compensation laws vary by state, as do the time periods you have for filing a claim, so be sure to check your state’s requirements.
As a truck driver, you might face risks that you wouldn’t in other jobs. There are two kinds of injuries that can be covered by workers’ compensation:
- Traumatic injuries, or those suffered from a specific accident or incident
- Occupational injury or illness, which is an illness or condition that develops gradually over time
Traumatic injuries from a trucking accident
A traumatic injury can be anything from a “minor” trauma like a slight concussion to a life-altering injury like a spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, or amputation.
There are a few types of truck accidents that are especially common, specifically rollover, jackknife, tire blowout, unsecured loads, and underride accidents. Often, especially in an underride accident or other collision like a truck being rear-ended (or the truck rear-ending another vehicle), the truck driver fares significantly better than the driver of a passenger car. Because of the height of the truck cab, along with the relative weight of the truck, as opposed to the car, your injuries might be less severe.
However, especially if it’s a rollover or jackknife, a truck driver can be severely injured.
A truck accident could leave you with these kinds of injuries:
- Broken bones
- Back and neck injuries
- Head trauma
- Internal injuries (bleeding of organs like bladder, liver, kidneys, pancreas, spleen, or others)
- Rib and torso injuries
- Seat belt injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
Occupational injuries or illnesses from trucking
An accident isn’t the only way you can be hurt as a truck driver. Your job is more than just sitting behind the wheel — and even if it was limited to sitting behind the wheel, there are still some overuse and stress injuries that can happen from driving for long hours.
Repetitive stress injuries
A repetitive stress injury is caused by repeated motion or positioning that happens during the course of your normal activities. You might hear other terms like cumulative trauma disorders, repetitive motion disorders, or overuse syndromes, and they all refer to similar conditions.
A repetitive stress injury usually affects soft tissues that include nerves, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. These conditions include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Trigger finger
- Ganglion cysts
- Epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
You might experience pain, numbness, tingling, or other sensations in almost any part of your body due to repetitive stress. Driving can cause these conditions, depending on your posture, how you sit in the truck, how you drive, and the number of hours you’re driving at a time.
Disorders of the neck, back, and upper extremities can be caused by loading or unloading boxes, cartons, containers, tanks or bins from the truck. They can also be caused by using dollies or loaders, or even working on truck tires. Often, these disorders are the result of overexertion.
A back or neck injury is sometimes caused by lifting cargo or equipment, but it can also happen because of less strenuous activity like climbing into the cab of a truck. Often, the effects of strenuous activity like lifting or bending are exacerbated because they follow several hours of sitting still.
Back and neck injuries are also common among truck drivers because of the design of the truck cab, which affects your posture. As your workspace, and where you spend up to 8 or 10 hours a day, how you sit in the seat, how mirrors are positioned, and where your body is relative to the controls (steering wheel, transmission, and others) can affect your musculoskeletal system.
Falls from heights
Within your duties as a trucker, you might need to climb onto high places on a vehicle, use ladders or stairs, or make deliveries to upper floors of a building, warehouse, or construction site.
You could fall on stairs, into an unsecured opening, or when exiting the truck. Often, knee and back sprains happen to truckers who fall when disembarking from the vehicle.
Struck-by or struck-against injuries
If you’ve ever loaded or unloaded a truck, you know that lifting a hitched trailer, opening a cargo container, or attaching a trailer can allow movement of vehicle parts like lift-gates, winch bars, pallet jacks, boxes, or cartons. Many truckers are injured from being struck by these objects or any loose cargo.
Health concerns for truck drivers
There are some less-obvious health issues that face truck drivers, too. These include:
- Obesity and stress. It’s well-known that obesity, stress, and smoking can lead to chronic health conditions like diabetes, cardiac issues, and cancer.
- Substance abuse. Truck drivers are known to use stimulants to stay awake. This can lead to dependence and other addiction-related issues.
- Exposure to hazardous chemicals. A truck driver has near constant exposure to diesel fumes, which can cause chronic lung problems. In addition, depending on what kind of cargo you’re hauling, it might include a substance like chlorine or nitrogen, which could be harmful. A hazmat truck accident that leads to a chemical spill could create an exposure situation that leaves you with respiratory or other injuries.
The main aspect to any workers’ compensation claim is proving that your injury was caused by your job.
Sometimes this is easier said than done.
Certainly, if you were in a truck accident and have injuries that were caused by the accident, your workers’ compensation claim should be straightforward.
If you have a problem like a repetitive motion injury or musculoskeletal condition that has been developing slowly over time, it’s going to be more difficult to prove that it was the direct result of your job. When you visit your doctor for diagnosis, be sure to tell them what you do for a living and how it might be related. It’s important that your doctor’s records reflect that the condition could be related to your job.
It’s also crucial that you know your employment status. If you’re an independent contractor, you might not be covered under workers’ compensation insurance. How workers’ compensation treats independent contractors varies by state.
One thing is clear:
A workers’ compensation lawyer can help get what you need. The workers’ compensation system exists for your benefit, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to navigate or negotiate. It’s important to find a lawyer in your state who understands the system, knows the filing deadlines, and is experienced with negotiating settlements.
The Enjuris Personal Injury Law Firm Directory is your one-stop source to find the workers’ compensation and truck accident lawyer who’s going to get you everything you need for a full recovery.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.