How are Owner-Operator Truckers Different from Company Truckers?

There are a few ways in which an owner-operator driver differs from a company driver. However, just because they differ doesn’t mean one driver has more rights or superiority over another. Most owner-operator drivers tend to get overlooked or lost when it comes to injury and workers’ compensation because they don’t have the power of a company to support them. Company drivers work for large corporations that provide them with their trucks, fuel, vehicle insurance, repair coverage, and sometimes per diem allowances for other expenses along the road. Most company drivers also have the option of purchasing health insurance, and after a certain amount of time with the company, they may be eligible for paid vacation time. The specifics of these offerings are determined by the company’s standards.

On the flip side, as an owner-operator, you may earn more money than company drivers, but you also have a higher overhead. As an owner-operator driver, you have the freedom to move anything you choose, either through a broker or by leasing your vehicle to a corporation, and even then you would still have greater control over your loads than a commercial driver. Owner-operators can also deduct a variety of reasonable expenses on their tax return. Even though you have more freedom over your workload and there are some benefits to being an owner-operator there are also downsides. Unlike company drivers, you are solely responsible for your truck payment, repairs, insurance, vehicle maintenance, meals showers, fuel, health insurance, taxes, and so on. Workers’ compensation for owner-operator drivers is another issue that is commonly faced.

What Is Workers Compensation?

Workers’ compensation is a state-mandated, “no-fault” insurance system that pays benefits to you if you’re injured on the job to cover medical care, part of lost wages, and permanent disability. In return, employers receive immunity from civil lawsuits by employees over such workplace injuries.

The Workers’ Compensation Act does exempt a very small, specific group of employees, which includes farm laborers, domestic servants, certain real estate agents and direct sellers, and commercial motor-carrier owner-operators.

The Challenge of Workers’ Comp for Owner-Operators

According to Zippia, there are over 679,000 owner-operators on the road as of 2021. These drivers enter an agreement under which they are considered to be independent contractors and the owners of their own trucks. So, if a work-related accident causes an injury, workers’ compensation for owner-operators may be more difficult to obtain.

In fact, insurance companies frequently deny workers’ compensation claims for owner-operator truck drivers, citing the fact that the owner-operator is an independent contractor rather than a covered employee of the trucking company.

What Legal/Compensation Options Are Available For Owner-Operators?

According to Zippia, there are over 679,000 owner-operators on the road as of 2021. These drivers enter an agreement under which they are considered to be independent contractors and the owners of their own trucks. So, if a work-related accident causes an injury, workers’ compensation for owner-operators may be more difficult to obtain.

In fact, insurance companies frequently deny workers’ compensation claims for owner-operator truck drivers, citing the fact that the owner-operator is an independent contractor rather than a covered employee of the trucking company.

Occupational Accident Injury Coverage

For owner-operators who lease or operate under a broker or lease from a corporation, those trucking companies can elect to include you in their workers’ compensation program if they choose to. They also may select another alternative, called Occupational Accident Injury Coverage. This would allow owner-operates to purchase their own coverage for medical benefits and some disability coverage in the event of an injury while on the job.

Occupational accident insurance is an insurance option that provides both you and your employers with a certain level of financial protection in case of an injury incurred on the job. A number of factors go into the coverage amount, such as the perceived risks of employers and their workplaces. Unlike workers’ comp plans, employers may choose the coverage amounts and the deductibles of the plan, and these plans cover medical expenses and lost wages only up to the coverage limits set in the plan’s policy. Which gives the company total power over the amount you receive.

Private Coverage

Another option available is to buy workers’ comp for owner-operator drivers from a private insurer, or if you can meet the requirements of the Division of Workers’ Compensation, you can self-insure as an individual business or as a member of a self-insured group.

More Roadblocks to Find Coverage

Your access to coverage may also be dependent on the state you are employed or registered under. Trucking businesses usually always refuse to provide workers’ comp benefits for owner-operators who are injured since they are not “workers.” In some cases, the trucking companies’ decision to refuse benefits is legally correct. For example, under Missouri law, a trucking firm is not required to provide work comp benefits for an owner-operator–even if you have a lease-purchase agreement with the trucking company and are not yet the title owner of the rig.

However, workers’ compensation laws in other states, such as Illinois, permit owner-operators to recover benefits in some cases–even if you have an owner-operator agreement with a firm that indicates you cannot collect. These states acknowledge that many trucking corporations refer to truckers as “owner-operators” in order to escape workers’ compensation requirements, but nevertheless consider them as employees.

As an owner-operator, if you are injured on the job you should never accept the companies’ denial of benefits. If you find yourself in a situation where you are being denied the benefits you rightly deserve, it is in your best interest to contact an attorney.

Contact An Experienced Attorney

In most cases, a trucker can bring their workers’ comp claim in one of two places: the state where they were hired, or the state where they were injured.

Where you choose to file your workers’ comp case can have a significant impact on the outcome not just whether you win, but how well you are compensated. Always contact an experienced Hurt Trucker Attorney. Our attorneys will talk with you for free and can tell you where you can bring your claim, what law will apply, and whether you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

If we represent you, we will aggressively pursue the maximum compensation available for your injuries, and we will not receive a fee until you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact us today at 855-4-HURT-TRUCKER (855-448-7887) or email us at [email protected] to set up a free case review, so that you receive the compensation you deserve.