According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “transportation and warehousing” is the second most dangerous occupation in the country when it comes to the risk of getting injured on the job. In 2018, more than 213,000 truck drivers and other employees in the transportation and warehousing sector suffered job-related injuries.
While most people who work for a living are classified as “employees,” truck drivers have long occupied a grey area. Some truck drivers have been classified as employees, and others have been classified as independent contractors. This distinction is important for several different reasons. But one of the most important reasons is that only employees are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
In New Jersey, Truck Drivers Are Generally Considered “Employees”
In New Jersey, truck drivers are generally considered “employees.” Recently, the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development secured an important victory on behalf of truck drivers in the state. In a press release announcing the victory, Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo stated:
“Too many employers misclassify their workers as independent contractors when, in fact, they are employees legally entitled to . . . overtime and equal pay protections, among other New Jersey benefits. Unless employers can meet our strict criteria for exemption, commonly referred to as the ‘ABC test,’ workers in every industry are presumed employees – not independent contractors – under New Jersey law.”
This is important because, as we mentioned above, classification as an “employee” is necessary in order to file for workers’ compensation. While there are certain exceptions, under New Jersey law, most truck drivers can – and should – file for workers’ compensation when they get injured on the job.
How Do You File for Workers’ Compensation?
So, let’s say you are a truck driver, and let us assume that you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Let us also assume that you got injured on the job. Now, how do you file for workers’ compensation?
1. Report the Accident to Your Employer
The first thing you need to do is report the accident to your employer. You should do this as soon as possible. Your employer probably has an accident report form. And if it does, you should complete this form to the best of your ability. In New Jersey, all types of job-related accidents are eligible for workers’ compensation, including:
- Collisions involving other vehicles (regardless of who was at fault)
- Single-vehicle commercial truck accidents
- Loading and unloading accidents
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Burns, crushing injuries, and other injuries suffered while inspecting or working on a truck
2. See a “Company Doctor”
Next, you will most likely need to see a “company doctor.” In New Jersey, employers and their insurance companies have the right to choose the doctors their employees see for treatment of job-related injuries. You might be able to see your own doctor or a specialist of your own choosing. However, before you do so, it is imperative that you make sure you are absolutely certain your treatment will be covered.
3. Make Sure You Receive Temporary Benefits
Once you receive a diagnosis and begin treatment, you should make sure that your employer or their insurance company pays you temporary disability benefits if the authorized doctor places you out of work for longer than seven (7) days. Temporary disability benefits are paid at 70% of your usual and customary wages, subject to certain statutory maximum and minimums set each year. Even if you are cleared to work with restrictions in a limited or reduced capacity, you may be entitled to temporary disability benefits if your employer cannot accommodate those restrictions. No receiving these “wage replacement” benefits can add insult to injury. This is one area in particular where you will want to seek the advice of an experienced and trusted lawyer.
4. File a Claim
Hopefully, at this point, your employer’s insurance company will be processing your claim in good faith, and you will be receiving the benefits to which you are entitled under New Jersey law. But, if this isn’t the case, you may need to take your claim to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD). This is the agency responsible for administering the state’s workers’ compensation system. And if you are struggling to collect the benefits you are owed, you may need to seek relief from the LWD’s Division of Workers’ Compensation.
Discuss Your New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Claim in Confidence
Do you have questions about your legal rights as a truck driver in New Jersey? Do you need help collecting workers’ compensation benefits?
The knowledgeable and experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo are here to help.
Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo has been consistently recognized as one of New Jersey’s leading firms in the area of workers’ compensation. Since 2011, the firm has been named among Best Law Firms in America® in Atlantic City for Workers’ Compensation. Frank Petro has received the highest rating (A/V) from Martindale-Hubbell, the world’s foremost authority on law firm credentials (the A/V rating is only for lawyers considered the top in their field). Since 1995, Frank Petro has been named every year on the Best Lawyers in America® list for Workers’ Compensation. Additionally, Frank Petro has been named to the NJ Super Lawyers® list since 2005 in the practice area of workers’ compensation. He is also certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Workers’ Compensation Law Attorney, the highest specialty certification available to workers’ compensation attorneys in New Jersey, and has held this certification since its inception in 1998.
Along with Stephen M. Matarazzo, Suzanne Holz Meola, Terri Hiles, Steven Lubcher, and Daniel Rosenthal, our New Jersey workers’ comp attorneys have more than 100 years of combined experience, having successfully handled thousands of litigated workers’ comp cases throughout New Jersey. This experience and winning track record means that you are going to have a skilled New Jersey work injury lawyer who will work for you.
The hard working attorneys at Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo take great pride in helping hard working people just like you.
To speak with an attorney about your case for free, call us directly at 888-675-7607, or request an appointment online now.