A reader writes in with this question: “I am – or I was – a long-distance truck driver who had a stroke while assigned to a load. I was actually doing my job duties when the stroke happened! Can I get workers’ comp benefits while they keep me off the road?”
First, we hope you’re recovering and feeling better and better each day.
To get to this question about trucking workers’ comp, though, there are countless variables that factor into whether someone will receive workers’ comp benefits.
Can a Truck Driver Get Workers’ Comp?
This truck driver points out they suffered the stroke while performing their job duties. While that might seem like a sure sign they’ll get workers’ comp, it’s not actually that simple.
Just because a medical event happens at work doesn’t mean that an employee’s job duties directly caused that event.
Confusing? Think of it this way: Imagine a chef accidentally cuts off his hand while in kitchen and on the clock. However, video footage proves that being rambunctious with employees and playing with a sausage extruder directly caused the chef’s injury. In such cases, that chef’s employer might very well deny him workers’ comp benefits. This is because even though that injury happened at work, and even though the chef regularly used the sausage extruder, it wasn’t the chef’s job that resulted in his injury. Rather, his own actions did.
One factor insurers consider is whether doing the job contributed to the medical issue listed on the workers’ comp claim. Past precedent shows that cases like this can be successful in some states but denied benefits in others. Because each case is unique, it’s important to discuss the particulars with an experienced attorney before your filing deadline ends.
Does It Matter Where I Live When I’m a Truck Driver?
Because trucking workers’ comp laws vary from state to state, where you usually work for your employer does make a difference. Perhaps even more important is that not every truck driver counts as an employee for workers’ comp insurance coverage. If you’re a truck driver who files a 1099 at tax time, then technically, you’re an independent contractor.
However, a truck driver that owns his rig and works for himself could potentially get workers’ comp benefits. If a truck driver works for someone else, it depends on whether the employer provides workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Not every state requires employers to carry this type of coverage, and certain workers are also automatically exempt. So, the truck driver who wrote in with this question should consult an attorney for free before filing a claim.
Has Anyone Gotten Workers’ Comp Benefits for a Stroke?
Every state has different restrictions on which medical conditions qualify as a work-related injury or illness for workers’ comp. For instance, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the Court of Civil Appeals was wrong to grant benefits to Pamela Wilson.
Ms. Wilson worked in a school cafeteria. She claimed that after carrying a heavy object as her job required, she experienced jaw pain and blurred vision. The next day, she couldn’t speak or move on her right side.
Workers’ Compensation Court denied Ms. Wilson’s initial claim, but the Court of Civil Appeals overruled it after determining the evidence in her case was incompetent.
In her appeal, Ms. Wilson asked the court to strike down a 2003 workers’ compensation law. That law states benefits are not available for heart-related or vascular injury unless the injured person can prove it is “resultant from stress in excess of that experienced by a person in the conduct of everyday living.”
This trucking workers’ comp case matters because it shows every state’s workers’ comp laws are different and often confusing. It also shows that even if a stroke happens while working, your employer’s insurer may lawfully reject that claim. This is because everyday stress is also a factor in vascular and heart-related injuries, such as strokes and heart attacks.
Of course, this doesn’t mean every state has similar laws. For instance, a firefighter in Illinois recently got workers’ comp benefits despite his preexisting conditions. Ultimately, the courts determined the stress of being a firefighter was significant enough to contribute to his on-the-job stroke.
In another instance, a Pennsylvania court awarded benefits to a worker after determining his job conditions – in this case, extreme heat – contributed to his stroke. Hopefully, this truck driver workers in a state where others who suffered strokes already qualified for workers’ compensation.
Should I Hire an Attorney?
Without an attorney, it can be very hard to prove you suffered a stroke directly because of your work duties. It can also be nearly impossible to understand the constantly changing rules of the state you live and work in. And because this reader’s a truck driver, there may be questions about where the stroke happened vs where their trucking company employer is based. If there’s one thing the above examples showed, it’s that lawyers helped those people get the compensation they each deserved.
Want a lawyer to review the details of your case to see if you might qualify for free expert claim help? Complete your free online workers’ compensation benefits evaluation now.
Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.