One of the most difficult experiences you may go through as a truck driver in North Carolina is suffering an injury while on the job. Such an injury may keep you from working and leave you with concerns about how you will pay for the medical care you need and your daily living expenses. You may have the option of filing a workers’ compensation claim, but this option is not available to everyone. It is essential to make sure that you qualify for coverage. 

The North Carolina Industrial Commission explains the biggest factor is whether you qualify or not is your employment status. Companies may classify drivers in two different ways. If your company classifies you as an employee, then you most likely will qualify for workers’ compensation. If your company classifies you as an independent contractor, then things get a little trickier. However, be aware that most truck drivers who are called “independent contractors” by the companies for which they drive are actually employees, under North Carolina workers’ compensation law, and are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.  There are also other features of such situations that require the assistance of a lawyer, and you should call one, if you are being told that you are an independent contractor.

One of those features is the presence, in many cases, of a non-workers’ compensation “occupational accident” insurance policy.  Coverage under one of those policies does not mean that there is no coverage under workers’ compensation.  And workers’ compensation usually provides better benefits.  The weekly compensation rate under an “occ/acc” policy is often lower than the amount under workers’ comp, those policies often cut off benefits after a short period of time like two years, and “occ/acc” policies generally do not provide compensation for permanent partial disability.

The general rule is that you are an employee, if the alleged employer has the “right to control the details” of the work you perform. This can be a complicated legal question, and it is not safe to assume that what your employer tells you is correct. The final ruling comes from the Industrial Commission, which may hold your employer liable because the definition of employee status for tax purposes is different from that for workers’ compensation purposes. 

Just because your employer classifies you as an independent contractor, it does not mean you have zero coverage. You should always check into workers’ compensation options if you have a work-related accident. This information is for education and is not legal advice.