Frequently Asked Questions

Rules and Procedures

  1. When am I entitled to workers' compensation benefits?
  2. Can I collect workers' compensation for a condition that resulted from repetitive use or overuse?
  3. Can I collect workers' compensation if I have a heart attack or stroke on the job?
  4. Can I collect workers' compensation for stress and other mental problems arising from work?
  5. What should I do if I have a work injury or work-related illness?
  6. Can I select my own doctor to treat me for a work injury?

Benefits

  1. What does workers' compensation pay?
  2. If I can't return to truck driving because of a work injury, can I receive retraining benefits?
  3. If I can't return to any kind of work because of a work injury, what benefits am I entitled to?
  4. Can I receive workers' compensation benefits while I continue to work?
  5. Can I receive Social Security disability benefits and workers' compensation benefits at the same time?
  6. Can I receive private disability insurance benefits and workers compensation benefits at the same time?

State Law

  1. What state law controls workers' compensation?
  2. Do all states pay the same workers' compensation?
  3. Can I collect workers' compensation benefits from more than one state for the same injury?

Another Party at Fault

  1. If I am injured in a motor vehicle collision on the job, can I collect from the driver at fault and from workers' compensation?
  2. If I am injured by some means other than a motor vehicle collision (such as a defective product, a truck stop's neglect, a shipper's neglect, etc.), can I receive both workers' compensation benefits and damages from the other party?
  3. What are the differences between a workers' compensation claim and a negligence case?

Hiring a Lawyer

  1. Can I handle an injury claim without hiring a lawyer?
  2. If I hire a lawyer, what should I look for in the lawyer's qualifications?
  3. How are lawyers compensated for their work on workers' compensation claims?
  4. How long does it take to resolve or settle a workers' compensation case?

When am I entitled to workers' compensation benefits?

A person is entitled to workers' compensation benefits when injured on the job or when an illness develops as a result of the job.

An accident or unexpected occurrence causing an injury is the most common reason for the payment of workers' compensation benefits. Diseases such as asthma, blood clots, skin conditions, etc., which result from hazardous working conditions are also commonly covered by workers' compensation.

Click here for more details about the background and theory of workers' compensation.

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Can I collect workers' compensation for a condition that resulted from repetitive use or overuse?

Yes, most states allow for such type of recovery. Here are some common conditions that might qualify:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Tennis elbow
  • Knee, leg and hip injuries
  • Back injuries.
  • Diseases associated with repetitive use of the legs and feet

As is true with other aspects of workers' compensation law, the coverage rules vary greatly from state to state, and a careful study must be made to determine which state laws provide the best benefits for any particular case.

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Can I collect workers' compensation if I have a heart attack or stroke on the job?

Most states allow for recovery in the event of such unfortunate occurrences. The rules or requirements for recovering these benefits vary from state to state, and a careful review of jurisdictions involved must be done. In many states, a heart attack or stroke is the most difficult claim to prove. If your case is covered by multiple jurisdictions, it is beneficial to select a jurisdiction with a lesser burden of proof ( See question #13).

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Can I collect workers' compensation for stress and other mental problems arising from work?

Yes, you may be able to collect workers' compensation for such conditions. However, there is a wide variance in the types of mental conditions that are covered by the workers' compensation acts. Some states allow for recovery for all stress/mental type conditions. Others require some sort of physical injury to be involved before stress can be compensated. As with other aspects of trucking injuries, a careful review of various state jurisdictions is critical for an injured trucker to receive proper compensation.

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What should I do if I have a work injury or work-related illness?

Steps for a worker's compensation claim

  • Contact your employer, and report the injury or illness.
  • If possible, keep a copy of whatever document you used to report the injury or illness
  • Get appropriate medical care
    • Be sure to give the doctor or other care provider a complete and accurate description of the accident that caused the injury or the work activities or conditions you believe caused your work illness
      • Use a company form if one is provided
      • If a company form is not provided, write down the date and time that you reported the injury and the name of the person you reported it to
  • Take down the names and addresses of all witnesses to either the accident that caused your injury or the work conditions or activities that caused your illness
  • Make copies of all work restrictions that your doctor gives you. Keep a copy and give the original to your employers
  • Keep track of all time off work
  • Do not sign any documents unless you fully understand them. If there is any doubt in your mind about what the documents mean, you should contact an experienced, qualified workers' compensation lawyer.
  • Contact a competent, qualified workers' compensation lawyer if you haven't received workers' compensation benefits – or notice that you will be receiving them — within 30 days of filing your claim.

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Can I select my own doctor to treat me for a work injury?

State laws vary greatly on this question. Until a few years ago, most states allowed for injured workers to pick their own doctors to treat them for workers' compensation injuries; however insurance revision of the workers' compensation laws took away physician choice in many states. This is an important issue that you should look into very quickly after you are injured to determine what your rights are in the various states that may have jurisdiction over your case.

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What does workers' compensation pay?

Workers' compensation generally pays four types of benefits:

  • Medical care for the injury or disease. In some states, this can be a lifetime benefit, even if a settlement is made on other types of benefits.
  • Temporary income placement. This benefit is often referred to as temporary total or temporary partial disability and is ordinarily paid until the worker has either returned to work or a determination is made that the maximum healing has occurred.
  • Permanent disability. This can be total disability, which in some states allows for payment of benefits for the worker's lifetime. It can also be partial disability that results in payments for a set or fixed number of weeks.
  • Vocational rehabilitation. This can be anything from help in finding another job to years of formal education. This benefit is available in a small number of states.

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If I can't return to truck driving because of a work injury, can I receive retraining benefits?

A few states have benefits for retraining as a part of their workers' compensation laws. The amount of benefits payable during retraining and the length of retraining programs vary from state to state. Some states do allow for very extensive vocational rehabilitation.

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If I can't return to any kind of work because of a work injury, what benefits am I entitled to?

In the event a trucker is unable to return to any work, there are a variety of benefits available. Total permanent disability is a lifetime benefit under many state laws. That means a worker would receive his maximum workers' compensation benefit for his/her entire lifetime. Some states limit the benefits to retirement age and other states establish a fixed limit for payment of benefits, such as 750 or 1,000 weeks.

In addition to the workers' compensation benefits, a worker could also receive Social Security and private disability benefits.

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Can I receive workers' compensation benefits while I continue to work?

Yes, you can. In fact, an injured worker can change companies or change professions and still receive the workers' compensation benefits he/she is entitled to due to a work-related injury. In certain instances, the amount of compensation you are receiving will be affected by the continued employment; however, in other types of cases, continuation of employment will have no effect on your workers' compensation benefits.

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Can I receive Social Security disability benefits and workers' compensation benefits at the same time?

Yes, you can, although there are formulas that provide for the coordination of these benefits. In other words, you may not be able to receive both maximum Social Security benefits and maximum workers' compensation benefits. The formulas for offsetting these benefits vary from state to state.

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Can I receive private disability insurance benefits and workers' compensation benefits at the same time?

Yes, you can. However, there are rules governing coordination of these benefits as well. Ordinarily, an injured person will not be able to recover their maximum private disability benefits and their maximum workers' compensation benefits at the same time. Insurance policies have set-off provisions that deal with reducing your private benefits by subtracting the amount of workers' compensation received, and some state laws have rules that reduce your workers' compensation benefits by the amount of private disability benefits you are receiving. It is important to note that workers' compensation benefits are not taxable, but private disability benefits ordinarily are.

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What state law controls workers' compensation?

A variety of laws may be involved in a particular workers' compensation claim. Generally, a worker can make a claim for workers' compensation benefits in the state where he was injured, the state where he was hired, the state where he lives, and the state where the employer is located.

Truckers are very often involved in multi-jurisdiction claims in which one or more state laws may apply. Some more detailed information concerning this aspect of workers' compensation for the transportation industry can be found here.

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Do all states pay the same workers' compensation?

No, they do not. Benefit levels vary quite a lot. Furthermore, the overall value of a claim cannot be projected by merely selecting the state that pays the highest weekly benefits. A careful review of the entire case and its long-term consequences is very often necessary in order to determine which state would actually provide the greatest total compensation for the injured person. We recommend contacting an experienced workers' compensation attorney to help determine how benefits vary in different states.

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Can I collect workers' compensation benefits from more than one state for the same injury?

In some instances, this is possible. Multiple jurisdiction claims are one way that a worker can be sure that he/she receives all he is entitled to for the injury or injuries.

Click here for an article explaining problems with multiple jurisdiction claims.

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If I am injured in a motor vehicle collision on the job, can I collect from the driver at fault and from workers' compensation?

Generally speaking, the answer is yes; although there are some state variations on this issue. An injured trucker can usually recover from the driver at fault; however, the workers' compensation insurance company or the employer would have a right of subrogation against that recovery. The right of subrogation means that whatever amount of money is paid in workers' compensation becomes, in effect, a lien against the recovery from the driver at fault. The rules for subrogation also vary from state to state.

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If I am injured by some means other than a motor vehicle collision (such as a defective product, a truck stop's neglect, a shipper's neglect, etc.), can I receive both workers' compensation benefits and damages from the other party?

Generally speaking, yes. There are variations from state to state; however, an injured trucker can recover from any third party who is at fault for his injuries. Common third-party actions would be against truck stops with defective and dangerous conditions that have caused falls or led to assaults, etc. Another source of third-party recovery would be against shippers for injuries that occur due to negligence of others while loading or unloading. Truckers are also often injured by defective products such as equipment used in day-to-day trucking operations.

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What are the differences between a workers' compensation claim and a negligence case?

Negligence or product liability suits have fewer fixed limits on the amounts of damages that can be paid. In many states, punitive damages are allowed for such types of cases while punitive damages are never allowed in workers' compensation claims. In virtually all states, pain and suffering is awarded for negligence but is never allowed in workers' compensation claims. Ordinarily, a negligence claim is worth significantly more than a workers' compensation claim, although you should be aware that third party claims require proof of fault on the other party. Proving fault can very often be both difficult and expensive. Furthermore, third party claims are ordinarily decided through the jury system, which is somewhat slower than the various workers' compensation systems. The deadlines for filing a claim for a negligence case are different than the deadlines for filing for a workers' compensation case. It is important to speak with an attorney to make sure no deadlines are missed.

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Can I handle an injury claim without hiring a lawyer?

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Yes, but it's not recommended. A long-standing rule of law states that "ignorance of the law is no excuse." Insurance companies and trucking lines use attorneys to protect their interests. Most of the time, truckers really should consider hiring an attorney to represent them. Occasionally, minor injuries where there is little or no loss of time worked and the nature and extent of disability is easy to determine fit into this category.

What qualifications should I look for in a lawyer?

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You should determine whether or not the lawyer has a significant professional commitment to representing injured people. This can be determined by checking out memberships and professional associations. You should also determine whether or not the attorney belongs to or is active in any workers' compensation organizations, either locally or on a national basis. The leading professional association for representatives of injured people is WILG: the Workers' Injury Law and Advocacy Group at wilg.org.

Lawyers' backgrounds may be studied in a variety of ways. There are a couple of lawyer locator services on the Internet that list professional affiliations and accomplishments. They include Martindale-Hubbell at martindale.com, which also operates lawyers.com. Martindale-Hubbell provides both rankings by other attorneys and clients. Rod Rehm, owner of truckerlawyers.com, is ranked AV Preeminent, which is the highest rating possible. The American Association for Justice at justice.org is also a searchable resource that lists attorneys who advocate for plaintiffs. There are several other good sources of information. Co-workers who have had good experiences with lawyers in similar circumstances are great references. Union officials are often aware of good local or regional attorneys.

State and local bar associations usually have referral services as well. You should also be aware that lawyer advertisements such as TV, radio, yellow pages and even the internet don't necessarily mean the lawyer is competent or qualified.

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How are lawyers compensated for their work on workers' compensation claims?

Most workers' compensation lawyers provide services on a contingency-fee basis. A contingent fee is a contract in which the worker does not pay the attorney unless a recovery is made. In the event of a recovery, an agreed upon portion or percentage of recovery is paid as the attorney's fee. Some states regulate the percentages that can be charged but others do not. Ordinarily, costs are charged in addition to the fee, although some states have regulations in this area and require that the employer pay all costs. Several states have specific allowances for attorney's fees and do not allow contingent fees. Any lawyer you may be referred to by this service will be familiar with the state rules and regulations and can explain your rights and options.

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How long does it take to resolve or settle a workers' compensation case?

Final settlement or resolution of a case is dependent upon when the injured person reaches maximum medical healing. A final determination of what type of permanent disability the person has and whether or not retraining is available cannot be made until a doctor releases a person from care. With serious injuries, the recuperation period is very often a year or more. With lesser injuries, the recuperation period runs from three to six months.

Once maximum healing has been obtained, resolution or settlement can be reached fairly quickly through negotiations if all parties involved are reasonable. If negotiations are unsuccessful and some sort of legal proceeding is required, it often takes about a year from the date legal proceedings are instituted to complete a case. The time involved to resolve the legal proceedings obviously varies from state to state, and is something an injured trucker would need to make specific inquiry about.