What Happens If A Tractor Trailer Hits Me While On The Job?
In 2021, 4,810 tractor-trailers were involved in traffic accidents. Given the total of 51,666 traffic accidents that led to injuries that year, it is reasonable to assume that a significant portion of truck crashes resulted in injuries. Often, these collisions cause long-lasting harm, leading to years of physical, emotional and financial hardship.
If you sustained your injuries while on the job, your options for action depend on the circumstances. You may be able to file a workers’ compensation claim. However, if the trucker does not work for your employer, you could file a third-party insurance claim. You may also have the option to file a personal injury lawsuit.
How Workers’ Compensation Laws Impact Your Case
Most states require nearly every employer to carry workers’ compensation insurance. In Michigan, very few businesses are exempt from the law. Companies that hire at least one worker who performs their job for at least 35 hours weekly during at least 13 weeks out of a year need to have coverage for employees unless it is an agricultural business. In that case, the company must adhere to the requirement if it has three or more employees.
Likewise, any company that regularly maintains at least three employees concurrently, whether full- or part-time, needs workers’ compensation coverage. All public employers must carry insurance for their workers regardless of the number of employees or hours worked.
What Happens When the Trucker Is an Employee?
If the truck driver involved in the accident works for your company, you would likely be unable to sue for compensation. Workers’ compensation laws generally prohibit employees from suing their employers for injuries they sustain on the job. According to Michigan’s law, workers’ compensation insurance is the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries.
In return, fault is generally not a consideration. Exceptions often include incidents that arise when the injured person performs their job while intoxicated. Another exception is when the employee purposely hurts themselves while on the job.
General Contractors, Subcontractors and Independent Contractors
There is often significant confusion about the workers’ compensation requirements for different types of contractors. These questions may arise when a truck accident occurs on the job. If you work in an industry that regularly uses contractor services, workers’ compensation may not apply if you sustain injuries in a truck accident while on the job.
Michigan law requires general contractors to carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. A subcontractor who works for a general contractor is covered under the workers’ compensation law unless the subcontractor is a sole proprietor with no employees. However, it is up to the general contractor to prove that the subcontractor fits the definition of a sole proprietor with no employees. Likewise, a verifiable independent contractor who is a sole proprietor with no employees is not covered under Michigan’s workers’ compensation laws.
Workers’ Compensation Coverage
Workers’ compensation benefits vary by state, but they all generally include medical expenses, wage loss, long-term disability and death benefits. In Michigan, the insurance pays for all reasonable medical costs arising from the injury for as long as you require treatment. The coverage only pays for a percentage of wages lost, and the benefit does not kick in for seven days after the accident.
When the insurance company calculates your wage loss benefit, it uses your income from the highest 39 weeks out of the previous 52 weeks. You would receive 80% of this average. The company pays the wage loss benefits for as long as you cannot return to work. If you have a permanent disability, you could receive full payments until you turn 65, after which your benefit would decline by 50% and then another 5% for each subsequent year until you turn 75 and can collect Social Security benefits.
If you are permanently partially disabled and can’t return to the job you had before the accident, the law requires you to seek other work. You only need to look for suitable employment, given the constraints of your disability.
What Happens if the Trucker Is Not an Employee?
If you are in a truck accident while on the job, and the trucker or another responsible third party is not an employee, you have additional options for receiving fair compensation. If a third party is at fault in the accident, you can file a claim with the other party’s insurance. However, the insurance company will not likely offer better compensation than workers’ compensation benefits.
The other option you have is to file a legal claim. Third-party liability is not covered under the workers’ compensation law that prevents you from filing a lawsuit. If the accident occurred at the worksite, you might need to do some research to determine whether a third party is accountable for the accident. However, your employer or the insurance company may also deny your claim because the at-fault party is not considered an employee.
Determining whether a third-party lawsuit is an option is often easier for off-site truck accidents. For instance, if a delivery driver is en route to deliver an order and a semi rear-ends the driver’s car at a stop sign, it is usually quite clear that the trucking industry involved has nothing to do with the delivery driver’s employer.
Who May Be Liable
The federal government establishes laws and safety regulations for the entire commercial trucking industry. Any commercial vehicle operating on federal roads or crossing state lines must adhere to these laws. Additionally, states impose safety and operational rules for commercial vehicles operating within the state and on non-federal roadways.
Determining who might be liable in a truck accident can be tricky. You may assume a truck driver is always at fault in a truck accident, but this isn’t the case. Others in the trucking industry may also be liable, including the following:
- Trucking company
- Cargo loaders
- Shipping company
- Truck manufacturer
- Parts manufacturer
- Maintenance and repair companies and contractors
Often passenger vehicle drivers are also at least partially at fault.
How To Establish Liability
In a personal injury case, you must establish a party’s negligence to win a settlement in a legal claim. To prove negligence, you need to demonstrate:
- The other party had a responsibility for your safety
- The other party did not fulfill that responsibility
- The failure contributed to or caused the accident
- The accident led to your injuries
The other party will also try to establish that you were at least partially at fault. In Michigan, if you are more than 50% to blame, you can’t recover any damages calculated in a settlement. However, if your liability is 50% or less, you receive a percentage of the award equal to the other party’s share of fault. If you file a lawsuit and win a settlement, you may need to repay the workers’ compensation insurance company for any benefits you already received for your injuries.
Does Mike Morse Law Firm Help With On-the-Job Truck Accidents?
Mike Morse Law Firm works with those who sustain injuries from a truck accident while on the job. If you have questions about whether your case is eligible for a legal claim, we are happy to evaluate the circumstances of the accident. We have in-depth experience and knowledge in truck accident liability cases and workers’ compensation laws. We pursue all possible avenues to ensure you have the best chance at a favorable outcome. We don’t collect any fees unless we win your case. Get in touch with us today to schedule your free case evaluation.