Denver Work Injury Attorney
Serving Accident Victims and Families in Colorado
Were you hurt while trucking, or diagnosed with an occupational illness?
You may be entitled to full workers’ compensation benefits in Colorado, regardless of your employment classification.
Work-related injuries and illnesses are more frequent and severe for commercial semi and tractor-trailer (CDL) truck drivers than for people in other occupations. Making a living driving puts you at higher risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident, and loading and unloading heavy cargo takes its toll, too. We’ve seen firsthand how a work-related injury or illness can be devastating for truckers and their families, threatening their occupation and livelihood.
If you are a trucker who was recently injured or became ill and are worried about how you’re going to pay the bills, take some comfort in knowing this:
Were you told by your employer, an insurance company or even another attorney that you don’t have a workers’ compensation case?
Don’t give up!
Employers and insurers have financial motives for misleading injured workers about their rights. And unfortunately, many Colorado attorneys do not fully understand the complexities of workers’ compensation law as it applies to injured truck drivers. You may have been intentionally or mistakenly misled to believe that you’re not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits when, in fact, you are.
The Babcock Law Firm has successfully obtained benefits for every Colorado truck driver workers’ compensation case we have taken on, even when the injured truckers was told by other lawyers they had no case.
We’ll always be there for you through the whole process. Every step of the way.
“Without everyone’s help I would have been left out in the cold. I would recommend this Law Firm 2NE1 who needs an honest attorney and honest people in the law firm they were so wonderful”
Common Injuries for Truck Drivers
Some of the most common job-related injuries and illnesses reported by truck drivers include:
- Broken bones and muscle strains/sprains. Whether caused by a crash or when loading/unloading cargo off the truck, these injuries are a particularly common problem among truckers.
- Repetitive stress/strain injury. Long-haul trucking and delivery driving take their toll on a trucker’s body over time, so don’t be fooled by the fact that it is a mostly sedentary job. Carpal tunnel syndrome, musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and arthritis are just a few of the many occupational illnesses commonly reported by truck drivers.
- Slip and fall injuries. Truckers are at higher risk of slip, trip and fall injuries at work when unloading cargo or making deliveries on elevated platforms. Truck drivers may also get hurt when entering or exiting their cab. Knee and back injuries are common in a slip and fall accident.
- Crush injuries. Truck drivers can get seriously hurt when they are struck or pinned by large, heavy machinery such as a forklift, container, hitched trailer, lift-gates, winch bars, boxes, cartons or other objects.
- Crash-related injuries. Motor vehicle accidents are one of the biggest causes of truck driver injuries. Whatever the cause of the truck wreck, drivers can suffer catastrophic injuries such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), internal bleeding, organ damage and broken bones.
- Toxic exposure. Truckers hauling hazardous materials can be exposed to toxic chemicals and fumes that lead to occupational asthma and other chronic health conditions. Even if you don’t handle toxic cargo, regular and prolonged exposure to vehicle exhaust fumes and other common workplace hazards can take their toll on your health.
Top Workers’ Comp Challenges Injured Truck Drivers Face
Many trucking carriers don’t want to pay costly workers’ compensation insurance due to the fact that on-the-job injuries for truckers are more frequent and severe than in many other occupations.
There are several ways that trucking companies attempt to skirt Colorado’s workers’ compensation laws and requirements. We’ll explain what these challenges are and explain how to overcome these obstacles.
Confusing laws, rules and regulations
The sad fact is that transportation and trucking companies make extraordinary efforts to minimize their costs in the event of a driver injury or illness claim. Just when you’re counting on your employer to help you shoulder the physical, emotional and financial burden of an on-the-job injury, your company and their insurance carrier will betray you by hiring expensive corporate insurance lawyers to exploit any loophole they can find to minimize your benefits. We’ve seen this happen time and time again.
You can be certain your employer and their workers’ compensation insurance carrier fully understand complex workers’ compensation laws and they know how confusing these rules can be to the ordinary person.
This is why it is vital to consult with a plaintiffs lawyer who is deeply knowledgeable of Colorado workers’ compensation laws, specifically how it applies to injured truck drivers. Our injured truck driver attorneys know the ins and outs of complex statutes, rules and procedures for obtaining Colorado workers’ compensation benefits for truckers injured on the job.
Classifying truckers as “independent contractors”
Are you an employee or an independent contractor?
Many trucking companies and carriers across Colorado and the U.S. hire their truckers as independent contractors to reduce business costs and overhead. Hiring drivers as independent contractors means the carrier is exempt from paying state or federal taxes, Social Security and unemployment insurance. They are also exempt from many federal reporting requirements, minimum wage standards and overtime compensation rules.
Consequently, truckers across Colorado are regularly told by their employers that they are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits since they were hired as independent contractors.
But for an independent truck driver contractor designation to be valid in Colorado, employers are required to either provide full workers’ compensation benefits or a private insurance policy that provides the same level of benefits, according to Colorado statutes and prior case law.
What’s more, there are 9 factors in Colorado’s revised statute 8-40-202 (subsection 2) that determine whether you actually are an employee or an independent contractor based on your job duties and responsibilities. Taken all together, these questions help paint a better picture of an employee’s true work status under Colorado law:
- Does your employer make you work specifically and only for them? (This is a sign that you are an employee.)
- Does your employer pay you or your business with a check? (If paid as an individual, then you are being treated as an employee.)
- Does your employer specify what you must do like they are your boss? (That is being treated as an employee.)
- Are you being paid hourly or at a contract rate? (A contract rate is what an independent contractor should be paid.)
- Can the employer terminate your services or contract at any time? (If so, you are being treated as an employee.)
- Does your employer provide you benefits and all tools necessary for the job? (If so, this means you are being treated as an employee.)
- Does your employer dictate the exact time you must be there? (That is an indicator of employee status.)
- Does your employer provide excess training? (This is a sign that you are an employee.)
- Does your employer combine business operations with you? (That is an employee.)
Inadequate private occupational accident policies
Another way trucking companies get around workers’ compensation requirements is by offering to cover their truck drivers through private occupational accident policies that are not closely monitored by the state and generally fall short of the benefits prescribed by Colorado workers’ compensation laws.
First, Colorado statute 40-11.5-102 subsection 5, paragraph A states:
“Any lease or contract executed pursuant to this section shall provide for coverage under workers’ compensation or a private insurance policy that provides similar coverage.”
“Similar coverage” is further defined in paragraph B as
“…benefits offered by such insurance coverage shall be at least comparable to the benefits offered under the workers’ compensation system.”
Unfortunately, many Colorado truckers believe that since they are employed as an independent contractor, their employers do not have to provide full Colorado workers’ compensation coverage. They accept that the limited occupational accident policies they are given are the only on-the-job injury benefits they are entitled to.
USF Distribution Services, Inc. v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office:
A Legal Precedent for Injured Truckers
Several court cases have affirmed the intent of the Colorado General Assembly in regard to this area of Colorado workers’ compensation law. When a court interprets a statute, it must determine and follow the intent of the Legislature or Congress by affording the language of the statute its plain and ordinary meaning.
USF Distribution Services, Inc. and Travelers Insurance Company v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office of the State of Colorado and Steven D. Engebretson is a notable workers’ compensation case involving a truck driver that set the legal precedent for all those who have followed it.
In essence, USF Distribution and Travelers Insurance were appealing a ruling by the Industrial Claims office that said the injured trucker was an “employee” rather than an “independent contractor” since the lease agreement between the trucking company and trucker did not provide the same level of coverage outlined in the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act.
The independent contractor classification was invalid since the occupational insurance policy the employer provided fell far short of the benefits outlined in Colorado workers’ compensation statutes.
Truck Driver Injury Prevention
Truck driving is truly one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. Statistics repeatedly show that the trucking and transportation industry has one of the highest fatality rates of any occupation.
Dangerous road conditions and long hours on the road are a couple of the top reasons why trucking is so deadly. An average commercial driver can drive 11 hours per shift, for a stretch of 8 days—or 88 hours in just over one week. That is a LOT of driving and fatigue – a deadly combination that frequently leads to tragic truck accidents.
Although trucking is among the most dangerous jobs, there are some simple tips and suggestions employers and employees alike can follow to improve workplace safety and reduce the risk of injury or death.
Tips for keeping truck drivers safe in a dangerous profession
- Check your rig. Before you start a trip, always make certain that your truck appears to be in good working condition.
- Watch the blindspots. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recommends checking your mirrors every 8 seconds to help avoid blind spot collisions. Inadequate surveillance is a common cause of truck collisions and trucker injury.
- Follow safety regulations. Keep the hours you drive in one day at 11 or below. Never drive over that limit or beyond any other federal truck driver regulations.
- Stay nourished and hydrated. Eat good, healthy food and hydrate regularly to help keep your energy up when behind the wheel for long hauls.
- Don’t zone out. Drowsy and fatigued driving is a common cause of truck accidents, particularly among long-haul truckers. Avoid the temptation to get lulled into highway hypnosis or “white line fever.” Pull over and rest if you start zoning out behind the wheel.
- Drive defensively. Yes, you are probably one of the biggest rigs out on the road, but this doesn’t give you a free pass to drive however you want. Be extra cautious when making turns and never tailgate. It takes much longer for you to slow your big rig down.
- Prepare for bad weather and road conditions. You should have plenty of training and experience in how to drive in cold and windy weather, as well as icy or wet road conditions.
- Take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest, stop and stretch and do what you need to do to stay safe and alert. Sure, you might be on a tight deadline to get to your destination on time, but it’s better to arrive a little late than not at all.
What Injured Truckers Should Do After an Accident or Injury
If you or a loved one are hurt while driving or you are diagnosed with an occupational truck driver illness, do not allow your employer to convince you that you’re not entitled to work injury benefits. If you were injured on the job, first you should seek medical attention right away to get diagnosed and treated.
Next, notify your employer and contact us as soon as possible. The Babcock Law Firm has succeeded in obtaining benefits for every truck driver workers’ compensation case it has taken on, even when the injured truckers were told by other attorneys that they had no case.
As an experienced and knowledgeable Colorado law firm representing injured truck drivers, R. Mack Babcock and his team are well-versed in handling cases of this nature. Prior to founding The Babcock Law Firm, Mack represented employers and workers’ compensation insurance companies so he has seen firsthand how these companies operate. Now, he uses his unique experience to help injured truckers obtain the full workers’ compensation benefits they are entitled to.
Discuss the details of your case with a Denver workers’ compensation lawyer at The Babcock Firm today. No matter where you are in the state of Colorado, our attorneys will conduct an in-depth consultation at no charge. We are here to help you secure a successful outcome.
Serving Injured Workers Throughout Colorado
From our office in Denver, we represent injured workers across the state—including in Colorado Springs, Littleton, Boulder, Aurora, Broomfield, Louisville, Lafayette, Lakewood, Golden, Thornton, Westminster, Longmont, Loveland, Fort Collins and many other Colorado cities.