There are nearly 30,000 semi-truck drivers in South Carolina, and truck accidents take place in all 46 counties in the Palmetto State. If you’re employed as a truck driver and suffer a work-related injury or develop an occupational illness in the course of performing your job duties, South Carolina law allows you to file a workers’ compensation claim to cover your medical expenses and two-thirds of your lost wages.
Workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance that almost every South Carolina company with employees is required to carry. To receive benefits, you don’t have to prove your employer did anything wrong to cause your injury or illness. Even if you’re responsible for your own accident, you may still file a claim for benefits, and your employer may not fire or retaliate against you for doing so.
Truck Drivers and Workers’ Comp
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that drivers of large commercial trucks are among workers with the highest rates of job-related injuries and illnesses. Some examples of common tractor-trailer injury scenarios include the following:
- Loading or unloading heavy cargo can cause strains and sprains of muscles and joints, as well as spinal issues.
- A slip-and-fall accident can occur when a trucker is standing or walking on a loading dock or trailer.
- Improperly loaded cargo might shift or fall and strike the trucker, breaking or fracturing bones.
- Hooking a trailer up to a tractor can result in injury to a trucker’s fingers, hands, or arms.
- Driving longer hours than legally permitted in order to meet tight delivery schedules can cause driver fatigue, slow reaction time, and poor judgment, all of which hinder the safe operation of a semi-truck and increase the risk of a collision.
- A collision with another vehicle on the road can result in a number of severe injuries: Lacerations, scarring, spinal cord damage, paralysis, traumatic brain injury (TBI), broken bones, burns, internal bleeding, whiplash, nerve damage, and amputations.
If you’re a regular employee truck driver who receives a W-2 wage statement and you’re hurt on the job, you’re probably eligible for workers’ comp benefits. There are, however, some other factors that could affect your eligibility.
Who Is Not Eligible for Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Even if you’re an injured truck driver who receives a W-2 wage statement from an employer that does carry workers’ comp, you cannot collect benefits if:
- You injured yourself intentionally.
- You were committing a crime when injured.
- You were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of your injury.
Other employees not eligible for workers’ comp benefits include sole proprietors, commissioned real estate agents, business partners, Federal employees of the state, members of limited liability corporations (LLCs), casual workers, and independent contractors.
Truckers who are independent contractors generally drive for more than one company, drive their own trucks, and have business licenses. They’re apt to receive 1099 wage statements, but not every worker who gets a 1099 is a contractor, and some employers try to categorize employees as contractors in order to avoid paying workers’ comp insurance premiums for them.
Who Has to Carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Nearly every South Carolina business or company with four or more employees is required by law to carry workers’ comp insurance, but there are some exceptions. The following types of employers do not have to purchase workers’ comp coverage for their employees’ work-related injuries and illnesses:
- Companies with fewer than four employees
- Employers whose yearly payroll is less than $3,000
- County and state fair associations
- Rail express and railroad companies
- Agricultural businesses
If you’re a trucker employed by a company that doesn’t carry workers’ comp, you might be able to recover damages by filing a lawsuit against your employer or filing a claim with the South Carolina Uninsured Employer’s Fund. An experienced workers' comp lawyer may be able to help you to seek fair benefits in any of the complex circumstances described above.
If you’re an injured trucker whose employer does offer workers’ comp coverage, and you’re eligible to apply for benefits, you generally cannot file a lawsuit against your employer or co-worker(s) for causing your injury or illness. If, however, a person or entity not connected to your employer is completely or partially responsible for your injury or illness, your attorney can help you to file a third-party personal injury suit against that person or entity. Such a suit could bring you compensation for the remaining one-third of your lost wages and for pain and suffering, neither of which is covered by workers’ comp.
Report and File
If you’re a truck driver who is injured or becomes ill on the job, report your accident or illness to your boss right away. If your employer doesn’t file your claim with the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC), do so yourself by using Form 50 from the SCWCC website. Although the law gives you 90 days to report your injury or illness and two years to file your claim, you should not delay. Any significant time lapse between your accident and your report and claim will be seen by the employer’s insurer as evidence that you’re not seriously hurt or ill. A workers’ comp attorney can be sure you meet all deadlines and follow all procedures so that you don’t lose your chance to collect fair benefits.
Once you file your claim, see the doctor certified and recommended by your employer’s insurer. (Do not choose your own doctor; doing so could hurt your claim.) Follow the doctor’s treatment plans, take all medications as prescribed, keep documentation of all your treatments, and make a daily record of your recovery process and your pain and suffering. If your employer’s insurer denies your claim, is slow to approve necessary treatment, or is generally uncooperative, contact a workers’ comp attorney.
Have You Been Injured On The Job?
If you've been hurt at your job you can speak with a workers' compensation lawyer. Please contact us online or call our Charleston, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Florence, Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach or North Charleston office locations.