Watch out for trucking companies who refuse to accept workers’ compensation claims

Aging truck drivers are at increased risk of getting hurt on-the-job and face unique challenges under workers’ compensation in Michigan.


Transport Topics published a fascinating article discussing the elevated risk that fleets are seeing with their aging workforce of drivers. It references common activities that cause workers’ compensation claims such as motor vehicle accidents, slips and falls while getting in or out, and loading or unloading cargo. Older drivers are more susceptible to getting hurt and filing workers’ compensation claims. Insurance premiums were mentioned as a bright spot because they remain stable and, in some cases, have even decreased.

We have represented many truck drivers who were hurt on-the-job. These cases present unique challenges because of the trucking industry. Many companies insist all drivers are independent contractors and not employees. This is called “employee misclassification” and is used to evade paying workers’ compensation benefits. Watch out for trucking companies who refuse to accept a workers’ compensation claim on this basis. Michigan law says a driver is an employee when he or she meets the requirements of IRS Revenue Ruling 87-41. This includes several factors that must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis including control, payment by the hour, set hours of work, and realization of profit/loss.

Michigan employers have seen workers’ compensation insurance premiums drop for the last 8 years. This has resulted in a 45% decline saving an estimated $492 million dollars. Unfortunately, these insurance savings do not happen in a bubble and come at the expense of disabled employees. Reform efforts put in place by special interest groups have dramatically reduced the amount of workers’ compensation benefits that are currently being paid.

We have seen all kinds of workplace injuries from our truck driver clients. This includes torn meniscus, ligament damage, rotator cuff tears, labrum tears, herniated discs, traumatic brain injury, and even amputation.

Aging truck drivers who have preexisting conditions or signs of arthritis will usually be denied workers’ compensation benefits. The burden is placed on the disabled employee to show he or she had some change of pathology. A very difficult burden of proof. Most people do not have MRIs from before they got hurt to show a change of pathology.

Truck drivers who cannot do their jobs are supposed to receive 80% of their after-tax average weekly wage in disability pay. Insurance companies typically argue that an employee maintains a residual wage-earning capacity and will use this fake amount to offset lost wages. It does not matter whether a new job or career has been started.

Truck drivers who are hurt because of the negligence of another driver have additional legal rights. They can file a separate 3rd party lawsuit and seek additional damages. Workers’ compensation will have a lien against any settlement or recovery. It is best to speak with an attorney to make sure all potential sources of recovery have been investigated.

Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers never charges a fee to evaluate a potential case. Our law firm has represented injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years. Call (844) 316-8033 for a free consultation today.

Related information:

What’s the big deal about employee misclassification?

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