If you are an over-the-road trucker, driving for a living, your odds of being injured on the job are significantly higher than the odds of a desk-bound employee getting hurt at work. And, if you are injured, chances are that your injuries will be more severe. So, what is your recourse?
In most cases, Wisconsin residents who suffer work-related injuries are limited to worker’s compensation benefits. While those benefits can help pay the medical expenses you incur because of your injury and compensate you for some of your lost wages, worker’s comp claims do not provide benefits to pay for your pain and suffering. The good news is that, under certain circumstances, truck drivers who are injured in the course of their employment may qualify for additional compensation for their injuries.
The idea behind Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation laws is simply to protect injured workers from the financial hardship that can come from getting injured on the job. The program is not intended to punish anyone for an accident that leads to an injury, but rather to accomplish the common goal of an employer and employee of getting back to work as soon as possible.
Worker’s compensation benefits pay for reasonable and necessary medical care, including doctor’s bills, hospital bills, as well as prescription and over-the-counter medications related to your injury. Depending on the extent of your injury, you may also be able to recover some of your lost wages, payment for vocational retraining, and other expenses you incur as a result of your work-related injury.
As a trucker, you are at greater risk of becoming injured at work because of where you work – the open road. In some cases, injuries sustained by truck drivers are the direct result of a third-party’s actions or negligence. A “third-party” would be someone other than you or your employer that has injured you. This is common in motor vehicle accidents, but a third party may be legally responsible to pay for your injuries under other circumstances too.
For example, if you are making deliveries and a third party was negligent in keeping the delivery pathway clear of ice or debris and caused you to slip, fall and get hurt, or they injure you in an accident with a forklift, pallet jack or other equipment or lack thereof while moving your load or cargo, you may have recourse beyond worker’s compensation benefits.
Claiming additional damages in worker’s compensation is not easy, but it’s not impossible either. You will need to prove that the third party owed you some duty of care (which depends on what state you may be injured in). In Wisconsin, the general rule is everyone owes a duty of care to avoid unreasonable risks of injury or harm to others. Assuming you can prove a duty of care is owed, then you need to prove that they breached that duty of care, that the breach caused your injury, and that you suffered losses as result. By losses, we mean financial losses from medical bills incurred and paychecks missed but also physical and emotional losses like favorite activities you missed or are doing less of now or not at all, relationships affected, plans and goals disrupted and problems with everyday things like laundry, washing dishes or putting away groceries. Truly, the question to be asked is “What are the things that you have missed and are missing that need to be compensated for to make you whole again?
A skilled, experienced worker’s compensation attorney who understands the interplay between worker’s compensation law and personal injury law can evaluate your case to help you determine your options. At Schott, Bublitz & Engel, we help injured truck drivers understand their rights and, when appropriate, help them pursue the compensation they are entitled to under Wisconsin law. To learn more, download our free eBook, Understanding Worker’s Compensation: Off-Site Job-Related Injuries and Compensation for Pain and Suffering. Then, contact us online or call us at 262.827.1700 to schedule a free case evaluation.