Hurt truck drivers often face overwhelming obstacles in receiving medical care. Trucking companies often fire truckers who are injured and cannot work. When fired, the truck driver loses employment benefits, including health insurance benefits. The trucker can retain health insurance coverage for a period of time by paying for COBRA benefits, but those benefits are temporary and expensive, particularly when you have just lost your job.
Receiving proper health care without health insurance can be very difficult. Even if you do receive the care you need, the cost of uncovered health care expenses drives many into bankruptcy.
Workers’ compensation may be the answer. In most states, trucking companies are required to pay for medical treatment for truckers who are injured in work related accidents. This medical coverage is very important to truckers. As most of you know, work related accidents are an unfortunate part of the trucking industry and it is critical that truckers receive proper treatment for their injuries.
Trucking companies (typically through workers’ compensation insurance) are usually required to pay for all medical care that is authorized, reasonable and necessary to treat a work related injury. Reasonable and necessary medical care can include everything from an emergency room visit immediately after the injury to surgeries months or years later that are necessary to treat the injury. You should not be required to pay anything for treatment of your work related injury.
While the medical care requirements of workers’ compensation may sound simple, they are not. Anyone who has had a work related injury likely knows the obstacles that exist to actually obtaining workers’ compensation provided medical care. The workers’ compensation system has several limitations that you should know about.
First, workers’ compensation coverage is not comprehensive. Workers’ compensation covers only treatment required as a result of a work related accident. Workers’ compensation does not cover medical care required from non-work related injuries or from conditions that existed prior to a work related injury, i.e., pre-existing conditions.
This means that workers compensation will not pay medical expenses for an injury that occurs while you are at home and not doing work for your employer. In addition, in some states, workers compensation may not pay for injuries that result from “idiopathic diseases”, such as heart disease, seizures, etc. For example, if you have a heart attack or seizure while on the job that causes you to wreck your truck and results in injury, workers’ compensation may not cover the injury. Issues relating to “idiopathic disease” can be complex and require advise from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
Second, you may not be able to choose your doctor. An important issue is who has the right to choose the trucker’s doctor. The answer differs by state. In some states (such as Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa), the trucking company has the right to choose the trucker’s doctor, or can significantly limit the trucker’s right to choose his or her doctor. In other states (such as Illinois, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Kentucky), the trucker has more say in choosing his own doctor. For truckers this can be an important issue. When the trucking company chooses the doctor, some companies will try to force truckers to see company doctors near the terminal or office where the trucker was hired. Truckers (unlike employees in other industries) sometimes live hundreds of miles from the terminal or office where they were hired. Traveling hundreds of miles to see a doctor can be a tremendous burden on injured truckers.
Third, trucking companies and their insurance companies often abuse the system. Workers’ compensation benefits (including medical benefits) are usually paid by an insurance company. Insurance companies make money by charging more in premiums than they pay out in claims. They also receive interest on the premium payments they receive. For this reason, insurance companies have an incentive to deny claims, or delay payment, even on valid claims.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens. Workers’ compensation carriers often refuse to pay for medical care and claim that the trucker is not really injured, or that the injury is the result of a pre-existing condition, and not a work related accident.
If this has happened to you, call us toll free at 855-4-HURT-TRUCKER (855-448-7887) or email us at [email protected] or contact us on Facebook or Twitter. If the insurance company has improperly withheld medical care, we know how to force the insurer to re-instate coverage, and we can recover the other workers’ compensation benefits you are owed.