In North Carolina, most truckers are covered by workers’ compensation insurance. However, in the event of an accident, some employers and insurance companies may try to claim the driver is an independent contractor or should claim against occupational accident insurance (OAI) instead.

Do not be deceived by people’s attempts to avoid paying you. The North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) makes the rules clear:

  • An employer must hold workers’ compensation insurance to cover a truck driver working for them unless the trucker really is “independent.” One indication that a driver is not independent is that he or she does not have their own license to operate from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).  Other factors that often come up are whether the driver is allowed to hire others to drive the truck, without approval of the company, and whether the driver is free to contract for loads with other companies.  Even the requirement that the driver purchase occupational accident insurance may indicate the kind of control that makes the driver an employee.
  • It does not matter how many people the trucking company employs (unless there are fewer than three employees total). It does not matter if you signed on to work as an independent contractor or were working as a contractor or subcontractor. If you are really an employee, including if you do not hold a DOT operating license, you should claim against the workers’ compensation insurance of whoever does.

When you sign a contract with a trucking firm, they may insist that you take out OAI. However, it is not a legal obligation in North Carolina. By contrast, workers’ compensation insurance is a legal obligation for truck companies.

If you have been paying for OAI, you may wonder why you should not claim against that instead. The reason is that it provides much less coverage than worker’s compensation insurance and only covers specific injuries stated in the policy.  However, there is nothing wrong with using that coverage, especially when workers’ compensation is being denied.

If you do have a truck crash, or otherwise are injured at work, seek legal help to submit your claim. If the company you were driving for says it is not obliged to cover you or does not hold insurance, you your lawyer may need to report them to the NCIC.