If you are a trucker, there’s a good chance that you spend a lot of time on the road with loads of over ten tons right behind your head. You do hard physical labor and spend many hours driving. You know that there is a huge potential for injury. It can come from road accidents, from wrecking a shoulder or a knee while loading or unloading your load, or maybe from hours of driving over rough roads finally affecting your low back. In fact, the Bureau of Labor names it one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States according to their data. However, with any job that that comes with a high risk of injury, at least you can sleep soundly knowing worker’s compensation is looking out for you, right?
Well, the unfortunate reality is that you can also face a higher risk for worker’s compensation claim denials because many companies classify – or attempt to classify – drivers as independent contractors so their employers can cut costs. The usual argument is that independent contractors are not employees – and do not have the same right to worker’s compensation as regular employees. Often these trucking companies also provide fewer rights to other insurance benefits as well. They may even try to claim you are not a MINNESOTA employee but rather an employee subject to some other (less favorable) workers’ compensation laws.
What your employer or the worker’s compensation insurer won’t tell you is that the line between independent contractor and actual employee is quite blurry. You may be called an independent contractor, but are technically being treated as an employee without any of the perks. However, under Minnesota law, you can actually fill out that 1099 tax form of an independent contractor and still qualify as an employee for worker’s compensation purposes if you fit the criteria.
Minnesota Statutes Clear Up Definition of Independent Contractor vs. Employee For Trucking Companies
Minnesota Statute 176.043 tries to clear up the lines between independent contractor and employee when it comes to trucking companies that try to take advantage of that lack of clarity. It states that you are indeed an independent contractor only if all of the below is true:
- You own your equipment or hold it under a lease arrangement
- You are responsible for the maintenance of that equipment
- You are responsible for operating costs such as fuel, insurance, repairs, and other supplies. This is still true even if you receive some reimbursement.
- You are not paid hourly or salary, but based on your work performance or a preset rate
- You set your own schedule in terms of how and when you get the shipment to the customer.
- You signed a contract that formally stated you were hired as an independent contractor
All of the above needs to be true for an employee to formally be considered an independent contractor. This means that if you are a truck driver and you were denied worker’s compensation because of this labeling, you may be able to argue that because not all factors were true, you can still be covered by worker’s compensation insurance.
For example, you may have a good case if you don’t own your truck, but rather use one of theirs. If their truck malfunctioned due to lack of maintenance, then the accident could be their responsibility – both for work comp and possibly for personal injury outside the work comp area. You could argue for worker’s compensation coverage, personal injury coverage, or even both given the proper set of facts.
Need Help? Contact Our Mankato Law Firm Today
Despite being an innately dangerous and injury-prone profession, if a trucker is considered an independent contractor, they can have a long fight ahead of them if they want to be covered by worker’s compensation. While Minnesota law has tried to help with statutes such as 176.043 to provide clarity, it is still up to the trucker and their legal representative to prove they are employees under Minnesota law rather than independent contractors if they want coverage. If you are an injured trucker hired or injured in Minnesota, let us help you.
Contact us to see how Harvey & Carpenter can help you fight for the compensation that you need so you can just focus on getting better.