What Charlotte truck drivers should know about workers’ compensation

North Carolina law extends workers’ compensation benefits to most truck drivers, including independent contractors.

Approximately 142,000 injuries result every year due to roughly 475,000 accidents involving large trucks in North Carolina and across the country. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, these accidents and other situations such as overexertion or falling result in several common injuries to truckers, such as the following:

  • Serious back injuries, including herniated discs
  • Fractures
  • Strains and sprains
  • Shoulder injuries
  • Traumatic injuries, including brain injuries
  • Soreness and pain

As to injuries of the spine, as long as the injury occurred while the Trucker was doing a task of the work assigned, such injury is compensable. For other body parts there must be an accident that caused the injury. Of those injuries, strains and sprains are the most common, accounting for half of all injuries.

When an injury happens to a trucker who is on the job, he or she is able to file a claim for workers' compensation. Before doing so, there are some basic points the trucker should know.

Who can report an injury?

Every truck driver should report a workplace injury to their supervisor or principal contractor. Truck drivers may be either an employee of a company or an independent contractor. Typically, "employees" are the only workers covered by the employer's workers' compensation policy. However, North Carolina law makes an exception when it comes to truckers who are independent contractors. If a trucker, as an independent contractor, does not have a workers' compensation policy in place, North Carolina law states that the company that contracted with the driver is responsible for providing benefits.

How do I file a claim?

The North Carolina Industrial Commission states that an injured trucker must report the incident to an employer or the party responsible for providing workers' compensation benefits as soon as possible. At worst, that notice must be delivered both orally and in writing within 30 days. The employer is then tasked with notifying the commission.

What benefits are available?

There are several benefits available to injured truckers, including money to cover the cost of medical treatment. The NCIC (North Carolina Industrial Commission) notes that the injured worker could also receive the following:

  • Visits with a chiropractor if deemed medically necessary
  • Reimbursement for travel when the trucker drives more than 20 miles round trip for medical care
  • Compensation for lost wages (the first seven days of lost time are not compensated unless the disability exceeds 21 days);

These benefits may vary on a case-by-case basis.

Can I work in a modified capacity?

Depending on the injury and recovery, a driver may be able to return to work in a different role. Many companies can offer alternative assignments, such as clerical work. Typically, a physician will have to approve the employee to return to work. Drivers should be aware that if they return to work, they will only receive lost-time compensation for the days they did not work if they qualify.

What if my claim is denied?

If a claim is denied, the employee will receive notification from the employer. Upon finding out about the denial, the claimant is able to request a hearing before the NCIC. During a hearing, an injured driver will be able to provide testimony, supplemental information, correct any mistakes and otherwise make his or her case for benefits. Please note that a medical provider cannot bill the employee until there is a final determination after hearing that workers' compensation has been denied.

Workers' compensation can help an injured worker with their recovery process. Anyone who has questions about the hearing process or their workplace injury should speak with an experienced North Carolina Workers' Compensation attorney.