REPORT the accident to your employer as soon as possible. Also enter it in Qualcomm or your logbook. Be sure to tell your employer exactly how the accident happened and that the injury was related to your employment. Use a company form if one is provided, and record the name of the person the injury was reported to at your employer.
WRITE a description of how the accident happened while it is still fresh in your memory, including any witness names, addresses and phone numbers. Take pictures of the accident scene if you are alleging the accident was due to the negligence of a 3rd party.
SEEK medical attention. Tell the doctor exactly how your accident happened, giving a complete description of what you were doing, and a full and complete description of the pain and problems that you are experiencing. Be sure to give the doctor an accurate date of injury. Follow the doctor's advice and always keep your medical appointments.
DON'T SIGN any document you don't understand or give any recorded statement to anyone unless you have legal counsel present.
Truckers who cannot return to their usual and customary employment face a potentially devastating loss of income. Among the benefits that might be available through workers' compensation are those listed below:
LOSS OF EARNING CAPACITY Loss of earning capacity attempts to measure the difference between the injured trucker's earning capacity before and after his/her injury. For example, a trucker who was making a pre-injury wage of $750.00 a week, but because of a physical restriction from a work injury can now only make $375.00 a week, might be entitled to a 50% loss of earning capacity. This in turn could be translated into a monetary entitlement using the applicable statute. A loss of earning capacity entitlement may be available even if the trucker is able to return to over-the-road driving. Examples of this situation might include a situation where the injured trucker can no longer unload, or where the miles driven are reduced because of decreased tolerance to over-the-road driving because of an injury. An experienced attorney can guide you through this process to make sure you are properly compensated.
VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION This involves a period of vocational rehabilitation and/or formalized retraining or education following a disability. For example, some situations might call for a period of formal education following a work injury. Under this statutory scheme, truckers would be able to collect their weekly benefits and have their books and tuition paid for while they are in school. Other forms of vocational rehabilitation include on-the-job training, where the trucker might be taught a new profession while receiving weekly benefits.
"PHYSICAL IMPAIRMENT" PAYMENTS FOR SCHEDULED MEMBER INJURIES Certain type of " " injuries, such as those to the arms, legs or hands, are compensated based upon an impairment rating.
A trucker's average weekly wage is the basis for determining the amount of weekly benefits he/she is entitled to. To determine the average weekly wage, a review of the trucker's earnings preceding the injury is necessary. Pay stubs, settlement sheets showing advances and deductions, trip sheets, and logbooks are all helpful materials in this determination.
If a trucker has a week in which few miles are driven or earnings are abnormally low, that week might not be considered in calculating the average weekly wage.
If special items such as loading, unloading, fuel and safety bonuses can be documented, in some states, the earnings from these items might be added to the calculation of the trucker's earnings.
Truckers have unique wage rates
Unlike the vast majority of the working public, most truckers do not work on an hourly wage. They are paid by the mile, or they receive a percentage of the amount received by the trucking company for hauling the load. They receive fuel and safety bonuses, loading and unloading pay. They work seven days per week, sometimes weeks at a time. Special attention must be made when calculating the trucker's average weekly wage and the weekly benefits to which the trucker is entitled. Often, insurance adjusters miscalculate the trucker's average earnings and the trucker receives less in workers' compensation benefits than he/she is entitled to.
Truckers want local doctors.
Truckers, like most people, usually want to be treated by doctors near where they live. If there is a dispute about which doctors the trucker may see, special procedures must be followed in order to protect the trucker's rights, even if the trucker lives outside Nebraska.
Truckers may have large earning capacity losses.
Many truckers earn high wages. When they are permanently injured and can no longer drive their ability to continue trucking suffers, as does their ability to earn similar wages in other types of employment. Compared to other workers, truckers routinely suffer greater losses of earning capacity as a result of work related injuries. Thus, skilled representation is necessary to obtain additional compensation for that loss.
Truckers may have third party claims
Truckers are often exposed to motor vehicle accidents and warehouse accidents involving third parties. Frequently, recovery can be had from these third parties in addition to that received from the workers' compensation carrier.
If a trucker's injury was caused by the negligent activities of someone not employed by the trucker's employer, the trucker may have a "third party" claim against the negligent party. This third-party claim might be available in addition to workers' compensation benefits. Money damages in a "third party" claim are often greater than the workers' compensation benefits available for the same injury. The possible existence of a "third party" case is a good reason why a trucker should promptly consult with an experienced lawyer.
State laws may vary concerning the rights of an injured trucker who has been injured by the negligence of a third party. Some state statutes require that a claim be made against the third party responsible for the injury within a designated time limit.
Photographs of the accident scene can be important in establishing liability in a "third party" case. Names and addresses of witnesses should also be gathered as soon as possible.
Owner/operators usually have the opportunity to purchase workers' compensation coverage from the company through whom they are purchasing their truck, or through a lease purchase agreement. It is very important that you read your documentation thoroughly in order to determine whether or not you have workers' compensation coverage. If you have coverage in Nebraska, you will be treated as if you were a regular employee under Nebraska Workers' Compensation Law, therefore, it is important to provide proper notice of your injury, and seek medical attention as soon as possible if necessary.
There is no specific formula for determining an owner/operator truck driver's average weekly wage properly under Nebraska Workers' Compensation Law. The workers' compensation insurance carrier will try to argue for a much lower average weekly wage than what you might estimate yours to be, based upon your annual tax returns. However, in prior decisions, the judges of the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court have taken other forms of evidence into account, including an owner/operator's monthly or annual income statements, as well as their weekly settlement sheets. It is important that you save such documentation, and be prepared to present it to your attorney, so that we can make sure you are compensated fairly for your injuries.
The first option you can try is to submit any bills for medical treatment to your personal health insurance or employee group plan, if applicable. While workers' compensation is the primary payer, once a formal denial is received from workers' compensation, health insurance should pick up coverage. If you are married, contact your spouses' health insurance carrier to see if they will cover your treatment. If you are a veteran, contact your local VA to determine whether you have medical benefits. If none of these options work, contact your state department of Health and Human Services to determine if there is any state aid available to assist you in your situation. It will also likely be necessary to file a petition in the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Court in order to determine your entitlement to medical and/or indemnity benefits.
If you are off of work for a work injury for an extended period of time, many employers, after a certain date, will deem you a voluntary quit status (or other similar wording), so that they are not obligated to continue your employment benefits. COBRA allows you to continue you health insurance coverage, even after your employer has discontinued paying for it. While the COBRA premiums can be extremely steep at times, we typically advise clients to continue to pay for health insurance through COBRA, if at all possible, so that they and their families are protected.
The workers' compensation insurance company has apparently hired a medical case manager to help "facilitate" your treatment. At best, the medical case manager will contact you regarding appointments and serve as a liaison between you, the adjuster, and the medical facilities, in order to gain timely approval and authorization of required medical appointments and procedures. At worst, the medical case manger will attempt to influence your treating doctor's opinions, and/or try to transfer your treatment to a doctor with whom the insurance company is more comfortable. The bottom line: always be civil and courteous to the medical case manager, but never give them more information than they need to know. They are hired by the insurance company and despite what they say about their concern for your treatment and recovery, the insurance company is who ultimately pays their salary. You have a right to demand that the medical case manager not be present in the examination room when you meet with your doctor for regular appointments, and if you don't feel comfortable around the medical case manager, you have the right to refuse to have direct contact with them. The medical case manager will, however, still have the right to converse with your doctor once you leave the appointment.