Three Questions Hurt Truck Drivers Ask About Personal Injury Lawsuits And Workers’ Compensation

A truck driver recently reached out to us and asked three questions: 

  1. What is the difference between Workers Compensation and Personal Injury         cases?
  2. Can you have both types going at the same time?
  3. How do you file a civil (Personal Injury) suit?

These are important questions we often get from hurt truck drivers.  To help hurt truckers understand these issues, we will post articles on each of these topics in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, we want to answer the questions that were asked and share the answers with all of you.  

 Workers’ Compensation v. Personal Injury Cases.

The workers’ compensation system allows hurt truck drivers (and other workers) to recover compensation and medical care from their employers (or more often from their employers’ insurance companies) for work related injuries.  Workers’ compensation is a “no fault” system, which means that a truck driver injured in a work related accident does not have to show that his or her employer was “at fault” or negligent to recover benefits. 

Workers’ compensation cases are decided by a judge.  The amount of compensation owed to injured workers is determined by a schedule that is established by each state’s legislature.  Generally,a trucker’s permanent disability benefit depends on his injury/impairment rating (given by a doctor), average weekly wage, and the part of the body that is injured.  

Personal injury lawsuits are “fault” based, which means a hurt truck driver must show that a person or company was “at fault” or negligent and caused the injury.  In almost all situations, an injured worker cannot bring a personal injury lawsuit against his employer.  The worker’s sole claim against the employer for work related injuries is for workers’ compensation benefits.  

Personal injury lawsuits are usually decided by a jury.  Generally, the amounts that can be recovered in a personal injury lawsuit are more generous than the benefits under workers’ compensation.  These recoverable amounts are called “damages”, and include past and future lost wages, past and future medical expenses, and pain and suffering as a result of the injury.

Truckers often have personal injury lawsuits against people other than their employers.  For examples, truckers involved in highway accidents often have personal injury claims against other drivers.  Truckers injured in warehouse and loading facility accidents often have personal injury claims against the owners of the facilities, or the companies that employ careless employees at these facilities.  Truckers injured by defective products often have personal injury claims against the manufacturer of the products.      

You Can Have Both A Workers’ Compensation Claim And Personal Injury Lawsuit Pending At The Same Time For The Same Injury.

Truck drivers often have both a workers’ compensation and personal injury claim.  When a trucker is injured in a work related accident caused by the negligence or fault of someone other than his employer, the trucker will usually have both a personal injury and workers’ compensation claim.  Keep in mind that the damages you recover in a personal injury lawsuit may reduce the amount of workers’ compensation benefits you can recover.  However, you are almost always better filing both a personal injury lawsuit and a workers’ compensation claim when these claims are available to you.

Filing A Personal Injury Lawsuit Usually Requires An Attorney

Small workers’ compensation claims can sometimes be handled without an attorney; however, insurance companies often refuse to pay the benefits owed until an attorney is involved.  Personal injury lawsuits almost always require an attorney.  The good news is that experienced personal injury attorneys will not charge you up front for filing the lawsuit.  Personal injury lawsuits (like workers’ compensation claims) can be handled on a contingency fee basis where the attorney fee is paid as a percentage (usually 33% to 40%) of the amount recovered for your claim.  In upcoming weeks, we will post an article about how to choose a trucker injury attorney.

We have been representing injured truck drivers in personal injury and workers’ compensation claims for over 30 years. If you have been injured, give us a call toll free at 855-4-HURT-TRUCKER (855-448-7887), or contact us by email at attorneys@hurttrucker.com, or on Facebook or Twitter.  We will answer your questions and make sure you know your rights.  


Shoulder, Elbow, and Wrist Injuries Are Painful Injuries That Prevent Truckers From Working

Shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries (often referred to upper extremity injuries) are common among professional truck drivers.  The injuries can be terribly painful and can make working as a professional truck driver impossible. 

For example, a trucker with a torn rotator cuff or nerve damage or impingement in the wrist or elbow may be unable to operate the clutch, fifth wheel pin, landing gear, and other equipment on the tractor trailer, or load or unload cargo.  These injuries need to be treated immediately to avoid further damage to the joint, tendons and ligaments. 

There are many activities that can cause truckers suffer shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries, including:

THE FIFTH WHEEL PIN.  The fifth wheel pin is a common cause of shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries in truckers.  To disengage the tractor from the trailer, the trucker must lean underneath the trailer on top of the wheels and pull up and outward on the pin. The pin can be extremely difficult to remove, and doing so puts the trucker in an awkward position and leaves him or her susceptible to injury. Shoulder joint and rotator cuff damage are common injuries associated with the fifth wheel pin.

THE ENGINE HOOD.  Lifting the engine hood is another common cause of shoulder, elbow, and wrist injuries for truckers.  The engine hood of an 18-wheel tractor trailer is high off the ground and heavy.   The driver stands on the front bumper and leans his/her body weight on the handle. Naturally, this would put strain on the upper extremities.

ENTERING AND EXITING THE CAB.  Slipping on the truck step and grabbing the hand bar to break a fall, is also among the most common causes of upper-extremity injury to truck drivers. The rotator cuff, elbow and A/C joint are damaged during this type of fall.

SLEEPING ON THE ROAD.  Team drivers live in a constantly moving vehicle. One driver is often sleeping on the bunk behind the seats while the other drives.  The trucker may be wider than the bunk, which means that the only comfortable position for the trucker to sleep is on his or her side with the head resting on an extended arm. A moving truck not only vibrates, but bounces. Impact trauma to the vulnerable shoulder of the relaxed and sleeping trucker is common.

THE LANDING GEAR.  The hand crank of the landing gear often causes repetitive stress-type injuries, most often to the elbow and wrist. This type of injury is common among drivers who used to work at terminals swapping trailers between trucks.

LOADING AND UNLOADING.  Any time a trucker handles cargo, shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries are possible.  Truckers often load and unload cargo after driving for hours and hours without a break.  Pulling, pushing, lifting and bending on un-stretched muscles and cold joints can lead to shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries. 

POSTURE.  One example is leaning the left elbow on the window frame or resting the hand or wrist on the gearshift lever.  This posture for extended period of time of months and years can injure the shoulder, elbow and wrist.

Truck drivers are likely to engage in several, if not all, of these activities every day.  It’s only a matter of time until an injury occurs.  In addition, shoulder, elbow, and wrist injuries can occur from highway accidents, terminal and worksite accidents, as well as dangerous and defective products improperly designed and manufactured.  There are quite literally countless ways in which truckers can suffer shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries. 

The danger of driving a truck cannot be eliminated.  But, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries, and limit the severity of the injuries when they do occur.  The first step is to be aware of the activities that commonly cause these types of injuries.  Limit the activities to the extent you can, and when it is necessary to do these activities, make sure you stretch and warm up the shoulder, elbow and wrist area.

When you do feel pain in your shoulder, elbow and wrist area, don’t ignore it.  Truck drivers in general do not like to complain even when they are in pain and often don’t like to see doctors for their injuries.  Seeing a doctor for your shoulder, elbow, and wrist injury is very important and can prevent the injury from becoming more serious.

We hope these tips, tricks, and resources help you avoid painful shoulder, elbow, and wrist injuries.  But, if you are a trucker with one of these injuries, give us a call at 855-4-HURT-TRUCKER (855-448-7887), or reach out to us in the comment area below, on email at attorneys@hurttrucker.com, or on Facebook or Twitter

We will talk with you free of charge and let you know if you may be entitled to personal injury or workers’ compensation benefits for your injuries.  We have a team of health care professionals who are used to caring for injured truckers and have the expertise to determine the cause of shoulder, elbow, and wrist injuries, even when the cause of the injury is not obvious from diagnostic tests.


Trucker’s Rights Radio Show: ‎”Tips, Traps, and Frustrations Faced by Hurt Truckers”

Truth About Trucking LIVEAllen Smith from Truth About Trucking LIVE hosted Hurt Trucker on their weekly radio show.

On Thursday, February 26th Charles Buchanan, Hurt Trucker’s lead attorney and editor of the Hurt Trucker blog, had the pleasure of speaking with many truckers and trucking advocates on Truth About Trucking‘s weekly live online radio show.

Listen to internet radio with Aubrey Allen Smith on Blog Talk Radio

The topic of discussion was “Truckers Rights – Personal Injury and Workers’ Comp Laws.” In it, the Hurt Trucker team detailed many of the tips, traps and frustrations that truckers face when injured on the job.

We received dozens of tremendous questions, and you can listen to our answers and the dialogue about them any time through the archive of the show.

A few questions and answers you will hear are:

  • Are truckers unfortunately forced in to making decisions out of financial desperation?
  • Does it matter which state trucker’s file their injury claims?
  • Can and should a trucker return to work while their personal injury or worker’s compensation claim is pending?
  • … and many more.

Thank you to the entire trucking community, and especially to Allen Smith, for making this radio show, and our involvement with the trucking community, extremely rewarding.


How do Truckers Pay Bills After an Injury? More on Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Workers' Compensation can help truckers pay bills after an injury.

Workers' Compensation can help truckers pay bills after an injury.

We continue our series this week on “Paying Bills After an Injury” by discussing workers’ compensation benefits.  

Our last post in this serious gave an overview of the “no fault” workers’ compensation system.  This week we provide more information about the workers’ compensation benefits available to injured truckers. 

Professional truck drivers who are injured and cannot continue driving a truck face a potentially devastating loss of income, along with the medical bills and financial burden that come along with serious personal injuries. Workers’ compensation laws compensate injured truckers for these financial hardships. The workers’ compensation benefits available to injured truckers differ depending on the applicable state law.

In most states, there are four kinds of workers’ compensation benefits available to injured truckers.

MEDICAL CARE

Your employer should pay for all of the medical care necessary to treat your injury. In some states (such as Illinois), you have the right to choose your own doctor. In other states (such as Missouri), your employer has the right to choose your doctor. In upcoming posts, we will discuss the hardship faced by many truckers who are forced to travel to be treated by company doctors.  

TEMPORARY TOTAL DISABILITY PAYMENTS (TTD)

Your employer should pay you some percentage of your average weekly wage (often 66%), up to a maximum cap, during the time that you are disabled from employment. These benefits are often referred to as temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. Employers often do not pay these benefits, or cut off the benefits too early.

PERMANENT PARTIAL DISABILITY PAYMENT

If you have a permanent injury because of your work related accident, you are entitled to receive a lump sum disability payment. The amount of the permanent disability payment depends on your injury/impairment rating and your average weekly wage. Employers often understate the lump sum payment by claiming an unreasonably low impairment rating, or they refuse to make any partial disability payment at all.

PERMANENT TOTAL DISABILITY PAYMENTS

If you have a permanent injury because of your work related accident that leaves you totally disabled and unable to work, you are entitled to receive monthly permanent disability payments for the rest of your life. The amount of the permanent disability payment depends on your average weekly wage.

Unfortunately, employers and workers’ compensation insurance adjuster’s often deny valid claims, or cut off medical benefits or TTD too soon, or claim that the trucker is not permanently disabled when in fact the trucker is permanently disabled.  Insurance adjusters have countless excuses for denying valid claims, and we have heard them all.  

Even when the adjuster agrees to a disability payment, the payment is almost always based on a biased injury rating by a company doctor, which results in a proposed disability payment to the trucker that is way too low. If this is the case, you need to hire a workers’ compensation attorney experienced in representing truckers.

Reach out to us any time. In addition to representing you in your workers’ compensation or personal injury lawsuit, we will discuss the options available to you to pay bills and get medical care during the legal process. We have been representing injured truckers for 30 years. We understand the hardships faced by injured truckers, and we help truckers face these challenges.

Next in our series we will discuss disability insurance as a means to to pay your bills. Before then, let us know in the comments area below, or on Facebook or Twitter, any questions you have on Personal Injury for professional Truckers or Workers’ Compensation for Professional Truckers.


How Do Truckers Pay Their Bills After an Injury? One Way is Workers’ Compensation

Workers' Compensation can help truckers pay bills after an injury.Workers’ Compensation can help truckers pay bills after an injury.

We continue our series this week on “Paying Bills After an Injury” by discussing workers’ compensation as one of the options.

In the coming weeks, we will post more detailed articles on the workers’ compensation process and benefits. In this two-part introductory post, we provide an overview of the workers’ compensation system and benefits that may be available to you.

Workers’ compensation is a “no fault” system designed to compensate workers injured in work related accidents.  This means that a truck driver injured in a work related accident does not have to show that his or her employer was “at fault” or negligent to recover workers’ compensation benefits. In most cases, a trucker can even recover workers’ compensation benefits when he was at fault for causing the injury.

Workers compensation in the United States dates back to 1908 when the federal government established a no fault compensation system for federal employees.  Many states quickly followed, although some states did not establish a “no fault” workers’ compensation system until 1925 and later.  Now, all 50 states have some form of “no fault” workers’ compensation system.  

The amount of compensation owed to injured workers is determined by a schedule that is established by each state’s legislature.  Generally,a trucker’s permanent disability benefit depends on his injury/impairment rating (given by a doctor), average weekly wage, and the part of the body that is injured.  For example, if you have an injury to the right arm and a disability rating of 25%, the permanent disability payment can be calculated using that rating plus your average weekly wage.

Workers’ compensation benefits are in important protection for injured workers to ensure that they can pay their bills and receive medical care. These benefits are particularly important in the trucking industry because professional truckers are injured at a higher rate than almost all other workers. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that workers in the transportation and warehousing sector are injured on the job at nearly twice the rate of the average worker. The most common injuries suffered by truckers are sprains, strains, and tears, and the most injured part of the body for truckers by far is the back.

Truckers don’t just suffer more on-the-job injuries, the injuries they suffer are on average much more serious than injuries suffered by other workers.  This means that injured truckers miss more work than the average injured worker. The difference is dramatic. The average injured trucker misses twice the amount of work (and by extension loses roughly twice the income) of other injured workers. What this means is that on average, injured truckers suffer substantially larger wage losses from their injuries and have larger workers’ compensation claims.

Unfortunately, the dangers of the trucking profession also lead to many on-the-job deaths. Again, the difference between the trucking industry and other professions is dramatic. In 2010 alone, 631 deaths were reported in the transportation and warehousing sector, which includes trucking as its largest component. Transportation incidents (which include many trucking accidents) accounted for 25% of all on the job deaths in 2010.

Workers’ compensation is critically important in a situation where a trucker is killed on the job. Workers’ compensation generally pays a death benefit to the family of the deceased trucker to replace a portion of the lost income.

We have been helping injured truckers and their families recover workers’ compensation for over 30 years. The workers’ compensation law is very complicated and there are many exceptions. We know the law and we know the games that are played by trucking companies and insurance adjusters. We can help you recover the benefits you are owed. We will also explain the other options available for paying your bills and obtaining medical care as your workers’ compensation lawsuit works its way through the legal process.

In part two of this workers’ compensation segment,we will discuss workers’ compensation benefits in more detail.  Let us know if you have any questions about workers’ compensation, and we will try to answer your questions in our up-coming post.  You can call us at 855-4-HURT-TRUCKER (855-448-7887) or email us at attorneys@hurttrucker.com. We would love to hear what you have to say!