Truck Driver Injuries and Workers’ Compensation in South Carolina
Operating a commercial truck is one of the hardest and most dangerous jobs. Truck drivers often spend long shifts on the nation’s highways, putting them at great risk of being hurt in motor vehicle accidents. But beyond crashes, truckers face a host of other job-related hazards.
Truck drivers are often required to assist with loading and unloading heavy cargo, putting them at risk for musculoskeletal strains and sprains. Some are injured in slip-and-fall accidents climbing out of their trucks or onto loading docks. Others suffer back injuries while removing tractors from trailers.
In South Carolina, truck drivers who are injured on the job may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits can cover medical expenses and provide partial wage replacement and disability benefits to qualifying truckers while they heal.
If you’ve suffered an injury in your truck driving job and are struggling to obtain workers’ compensation benefits, contact Stewart Law Offices today. Our experienced lawyers can review your claim and work to secure the benefits that you are owed.
At Stewart Law Offices, we understand the difficulties that a work injury can place on your life and livelihood.
Our attorneys strive to make ourselves available to you at any time during your case so that you don’t have to feel stressed by the burdens of pursuing a workers’ compensation claim. Let us empower you and place you on the path to benefits.
Accident Risks for Truck Drivers
Truck drivers face the possibility of suffering injuries while performing many routine job duties. The most common injury scenarios include:
- Accidents during the loading, securing, and unloading of cargo (e.g., forklift accidents, being struck or crushed by moving cargo, etc.)
- Accidents while connecting or disconnecting trailers
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Slip, trip, and fall accidents (e.g., getting in and out of truck cabs, walking across parking lots or on ramps, etc.)
- Exposure to toxic or harmful substances
- Fires and explosions
- Inhalation of toxic or hazardous fumes
Given these dangers, it’s no surprise that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently found that truck drivers topped their list of the deadliest occupations in America.
Common Truck Driver Injuries
Operating commercial trucks can be difficult and exhausting labor, subjecting truck drivers to the risk of sustaining a wide variety of job-related injuries, including:
- Deep cuts
- Broken bones
- Dislocated joints
- Soft-tissue injuries
- Sprains and tears to muscles, tendons, and ligaments
- Herniated or ruptured spinal discs
- Neck and back injuries
- Repetitive stress injuries
- Whiplash injuries
- Crush injuries
- Electrocution injuries
- Inhalation injuries
- Toxic exposure
- Internal organ damage
- Internal bleeding
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Head and facial injuries
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Eye injuries
- Hearing damage
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Sleep apnea
Severe or chronic injuries can prevent a truck driver from working and enjoying other aspects of daily life. Persistent limitations may eventually lead to mental health illnesses as well, such as anxiety and depression.
Steps to Take After a Work Injury
If you’re a trucker with a work injury, you can improve your chances of obtaining maximum workers’ compensation benefits by taking the following steps:
- Report your injury to your employer as soon as possible. Your employer may have forms for you to use to report a work injury, or you might provide a written letter or email notifying your employer. If you don’t provide notice of a work injury to your employer within 90 days of your injury occurring, you may end up losing your right to seek workers’ compensation benefits in South Carolina.
- Seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Your employer has the right to choose what doctors or healthcare facilities you receive treatment from unless you require emergency medical treatment. If you see a medical provider other than the one selected by your employer for regular, non-emergency treatment, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer can decline to cover the cost of such treatment. If you delay seeking treatment, your employer may try to claim that your injury is not job-related.
- Follow all treatment instructions and recommendations. If you ignore or delay treatment, your employer may claim that your injury isn’t as serious as you claim and/or demand that you return to work. If your injuries worsen due to the delay in treatment, your employer may also seek to deny compensation for additional medical treatment on the grounds that you allowed your condition to worsen by not seeking reasonably prompt medical treatment.
- Document evidence of your work injury. Take photographs of the accident scene and your injuries. Ask that any surveillance camera or dashcam footage of your injury be preserved. If others witnessed your work injury, ask them to provide a short statement about what they saw. Keep copies of your medical records, as well as copies of your pay stubs and of the bills, invoices, and receipts of expenses you incur due to your job injury.
- Keep a pain journal. Document your recollections of what happened to cause your job injury. Include a description of the recovery process to show the impact that the injury and your treatment has had on your life.
- Talk to a S.C. workers’ compensation attorney: If your employer refuses to pay benefits you believe you may be entitled to, you should speak to a workers’ comp lawyer as soon as possible. You may be entitled to file Form 50 with the S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission to contest your employer’s denial of benefits.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Truck Drivers
Benefits available in a South Carolina workers’ compensation claim may include:
- Reimbursement of all reasonable and necessary medical treatment related to your work injury. Treatment must be authorized by your employer to be reimbursed unless you require emergency treatment.
- Partial replacement of lost wages
- Reimbursement for transportation and lodging costs incurred in traveling to and from medical appointments and procedures.
- Temporary partial disability benefits (TPD)
- Temporary total disability benefits (TTD)
- Permanent partial disability benefits (PPD)
- Permanent total disability benefits (PTD)
- Vocational services, if you cannot continue working as a truck driver but have the ability to perform other work, including vocational rehabilitation, training, and job placement.
The family of a truck driver who passed away due to work injuries may also be entitled to certain workers’ compensation benefits. These include partial income replacement to surviving dependents for 500 weeks equal to the benefits the truck driver would have received for temporary total disability payments, as well as up to $12,000 in reimbursement of funeral and burial expenses.
Other Legal Options
In South Carolina, workers’ compensation benefits are awarded regardless of fault. That means that truck drivers do not have to prove that anyone was negligent and caused their injury in order to receive coverage. But there’s a trade-off: In exchange for these no-fault benefits, truckers are prohibited from suing their employers.
Workers’ compensation benefits do not cover personal, intangible losses such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium, lost quality of life, or reduced life expectancy. However, it may still be possible for truckers to recover those non-economic losses if a third party is responsible for their injury.
Consider this example: You were injured in your 18-wheeler when a drunk driver struck your rig and caused a multi-car pileup. You were hurt while performing job duties, which likely entitles you to workers’ compensation. But you could also file a third-party lawsuit against the intoxicated driver for negligence. This opens the door for an award of additional money to support you as you recover.
It’s not always easy to determine whether you have a third-party liability claim after a truck accident. It’s best to talk with a workers’ compensation lawyer to ensure that you seek compensation from every possible source.
Contact Our Trucker Driver Advocates at Stewart Law Offices Today
Stewart Law Offices has represented South Carolina truck drivers in workers’ compensation claims for over 25 years. With offices in Rock Hill, Columbia, Spartanburg, Charlotte and Beaufort, our trusted attorneys have developed a reputation for excellence and true Southern hospitality. You can count on us to stand by you through every part of the workers’ compensation process.
Call or contact us for a free consultation now.