Category Archives: Truckers

Truckers Fired Over Workers’ Comp Claim: What to Do Next

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Truck drivers have a remedy if fired for making a workers’ compensation claim.

A recent award of over $100,000 to a truck driver who was fired for making a workers’ compensation claim illustrated the protection drivers have under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA). New Prime of Springfield, Mo., had to pay the former employee lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages. “The company must also expunge the complainant’s employment and DAC Report records of any reference to his unlawful termination,” according to the article above. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is often criticized for a variety of reasons, enforced anti-retaliation laws that protect truck drivers who are unfairly punished for taking steps to protect their health and financial welfare. These laws can also be enforced through lawsuits as an alternative to the OSHA administrative process. 

Truck drivers need to be aware of this protection. Truck drivers also need to know that OSHA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have just announced an agreement to strengthen protections for transportation workers from coercion and retaliation.   

The industry publication FleetOwner gives more details about how OSHA and the FMCSA interact with the STAA in this article.   

Here is one helpful quote from the FleetOwner article:

“If OSHA finds that a complaint is valid, it can order the employer to reinstate the worker; pay back pay, interest and compensatory damages; pay punitive damages up to $250,000 where warranted; and/or take other remedial actions.”

In addition, “action by one agency didn’t preclude action by another in the same situation” when it comes to the STAA.

“OSHA’s mandate is protecting workers, while FMCSA’s mandate is safety, (an FMCSA document) said. And FMCSA can take action against a carrier or other entity but, unlike OSHA, it can’t compensate a driver. So a driver filing a complaint with FMCSA about coercion might be able to file a whistleblower protection complaint with OSHA and vice versa, FMCSA said.”

The recent award and very recent press release from OSHA are great news for truckers and their families. The laws that protect you work. There is an apparently serious effort to make them work better. It will now be easier to protect your health and welfare if you are injured on the job.

Workers’ Comp Covers Work-Related Motor Vehicle Accidents

Today’s post comes from guest author Todd Bennett, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Do you drive a company vehicle as part of your job?

Many find themselves in the situation where they travel regularly, or on a special errand from time to time, as part of their job. 

In the unfortunate scheme of things, if you are involved in an accident while driving, whether it is your fault or not, you are covered by and entitled to workers’ compensation benefits just as any other employee who suffers an accident on the premise of an employer.

More importantly, if the cause of the accident was not due to negligence of your own, but that of a third party, you have a right to bring a third-party negligence action against the party responsible for causing the vehicle accident. This right is separate and distinct from the workers’ compensation benefits that you are entitled to. Further, you also potentially have the right to bring an underinsured motorist coverage claim under your employer’s motor vehicle coverage as well as your own underinsured motorist vehicle coverage. These, too, are separate and distinct from the workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to. 

It is important to note that the employer would have a subrogation right to be reimbursed for workers’ compensation benefits paid on your behalf against that of any third-party negligence claim where you obtained a recovery. However, as underinsured motorist coverage is typically viewed as contractual benefits in nature, there is no subrogation right from your employer if underinsured benefits are obtained in Nebraska.

If you or someone you know was injured in a motor vehicle accident that arose out of and in the course of one’s employment, there are significant issues to be aware of in order to obtain a recovery that meets your needs. If you have any questions or uncertainty when dealing with this point of law, please seek the advice of an experienced attorney who can help steer you in the best course of action.

Truckers are often entitled to benefits from multiple states.

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Truckers are frequently entitled to benefits from multiple states for an injury. Each state sets rules for applying its workers’ compensation laws. Virtually all states cover accidents that happen in that state. Many states allow benefits if the employer has it primary location in that state. Others cover claims if the employer is doing business it the state. There are different rules in each state and you should talk to experience workers compensation lawyer to learn what laws cover your injury. However, you do not have to make a choice.

Unless the state law says it will not provide coverage if another state does, you have multiple forums and can file in all of them.

The law established by the United State Supreme court in Thomas v. Washington Gas Light Co. is that compensation does not involve a “choice of law” question. The issue is one of coverage. Does the injury come within the coverage of one or more state? If so, each of the states can apply their law and award benefits even if a claim is being pursued elsewhere at the same time. Unless the state law says it will not provide coverage if another state does, you have multiple forums and can Continue reading

Feds To Ban Truckers From Using (Hand-Held) Cell Phones

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Today’s post comes from guest author from Jon Gelman, LLC – Attorney at Law.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is proposing to restrict the use of hand-held mobile telephones, including hand-held cell phones, by drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) while operating in interstate commerce. Cell phones have become a major cause of distracted driving accidents resulting in an increase of workers’ compensation claims by employees as well as liability lawsuits against employers directly. This federal rule would be in addition to the many states which already ban hand-held cell phone use.

The following is a summary of the proposed rule:<!–more–> “FMCSA and PHMSA are amending the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) to restrict the use of hand-held mobile telephones by drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). This rulemaking will improve safety on the Nation’s highways by reducing the prevalence of distracted driving-related crashes, fatalities, and injuries involving drivers of CMVs. The Agencies also amend their regulations to implement new driver disqualification sanctions for drivers of CMVs who fail to comply with this Federal restriction and new driver disqualification sanctions for commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders who have multiple convictions for violating a State or local law or ordinance on motor vehicle traffic control that restricts the use of hand-held mobile telephones. Additionally, motor carriers are prohibited from requiring or allowing drivers of CMVs to use hand-held mobile telephones.”

You can read the full text of the proposed rule here: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/administration/rulemakings/final/Mobile_phone_NFRM.pdf.

For over 3 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman in New Jersey have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses. Jon is a prolific author, public speaker and educator on the topic of workers’ compensation law.

Truck Drivers Beware – Your Insurance May Not be What You Think

Truckers should be aware of the potentially dangerous 104 week provision.

There is a scam out there and truck drivers are the victims, especially if they are seriously injured in a trucking accident. It works like this: an out of work driver hears about a job and fills out an application with a national trucking company. He then gets a call saying he has been accepted as a driver, contingent on a physical exam and a drug test. The driver is then asked to show up at work on an appointed date for his first delivery job. When he shows up he is asked to “sign papers” which allow him to lease/own the truck as he drives it across the country, and he signs a contract that declares that he is an independent contractor (although in reality the trucking company controls the deliveries and is the only source of revenue for the driver). Further, he is required to purchase accident insurance through a broker designated by the trucking company and the premiums are taken out of his paycheck. Because the driver is anxious to work again and is not particularly experienced in reviewing legal documents the driver signs the papers, gets in the truck and begins working again as an interstate truck driver.

The costs of this workplace injury are now shifted from the employer/insurer to the taxpayer.

Like most of us, these drivers never expect to be in a serious accident. If they unfortunately do have an accident while driving the truck, they look to the accident policy they purchased. If they are disabled, it pays the same benefits as workers’ compensation and provides medical coverage. Many drivers think they are actually on workers’ compensation. The catch is that all benefits stop after 104 weeks (2 years). If after that time if the driver is still disabled and still needs medical care, it is a shock to find out none is available under this contract.

Is there no hope for the truck driver under these circumstances?

Why 104 weeks? Most states have workers’ compensation systems that require the claim be filed within 2 years. Since the 2-year period has run, the driver is out of luck and cannot file for workers’ compensation under state law. What happens if the driver needs additional surgery and continues to remain disabled? Most likely federal assistance programs like Medicaid or Medicare enter the picture and the costs of this workplace injury are now shifted from the employer/insurer to the taxpayer.

If involved in a serious accident, be aware of the 104-week provision and file a workers’ compensation claim before that time period expires.

Is there no hope for the truck driver under these circumstances? Although it might be a tough fight, most workers’ compensation statutes specifically state that an employer cannot contract away its obligations under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Thus, the truck driver’s legal argument is that the contract designating the driver as an independent contractor was void as a matter of law. If the employee has been the subject of fraud, equity may allow the driver to go ahead and file a claim and pursue the action even through the 2-yr period has run. Under these circumstances, certainly in North Carolina, the driver would have an opportunity to pursue this claim.

The lesson to be learned by truck drivers is not to assume that the contract you have innocently signed is valid. If involved in a serious accident, be aware of the 104-week provision and file a workers’ compensation claim before that time period expires. Finally, if you are asked to sign one of these contracts and you have options of other employment, you may want to decline this job offer and work for a company that is more ethical. Your livelihood and the welfare of your family may depend on this important decision.

Cell phone ban for commercial drivers could affect truckers' work' comp' claims

Our post for today comes to us from our colleague Rod Rehm of Rehm, Bennett & Moore in Nebraska.

On Tuesday the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a recommendation that could affect millions of truckers. The NTSB proposed that commercial drivers be banned from using both hand-held and hands-free mobile phones while driving on the job.

While the NTSB is a U.S. government organization, their recommendation is not a law. However the board’s actions may prompt local, state, and federal governments to pass laws that make driving while talking on the phone illegal, even if the driver is on a hands-free device.

If such a law were passed, and a commercial driver is using a cell phone while in an accident, in certain cases the driver would be unable to collect workers’ compensation benefits.

In Nebraska, and in some other states, a law banning the use of cell phones could affect the ability of truckers to collect workers’ compensation. Continue reading