The trucking industry is a leader in accumulating workers’ compensation claims. In 2012, according to the latest Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there were 4.5 injury and illness cases per 100 full-time workers in industry. This exceeds:
- The construction industry - 3.7 cases per 100 full-time workers
- The mining and natural resources industry - 3.8 cases
- The leisure and hospitality industry - 3.9 cases
- The manufacturing industry - 4.3 cases
Not only does this data suggest that trucking company executives should be vigilant in addressing workplace safety and effectively mitigating workers’ comp claims, but the fact that 13% of all workers’ comp cases wind up in court should raise its own concern among trucking employers. A lawsuit can drag out the duration of the claim, tacking on thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees, lost-time costs and settlement costs.
However, using the right tools can prevent a vast majority of workers’ comp legal nightmares. In fact, by utilizing four strategic tools at the disposal of every trucking company, you can eliminate most major legal issues associated with workers’ comp claims.
From loading and unloading cargo to entering and exiting the cab and trailer, work in the trucking industry can be physically demanding. Requiring a pre-employment physical helps to confirm that a job candidate has the physical ability to perform the tasks at hand, which could prevent you from hiring a workers’ comp case waiting to happen.
You can have a doctor perform a basic checkup and physical examination to provide expertise on a candidate’s range of motion, physical stamina, hearing issues and more. A physical may also simply consist of asking the candidate to do the job description he or she is applying for, giving you a preliminary first-hand look into how the candidate can or cannot safely perform his or her job.
Even if employees pass a pre-employment physical, employers need to have an understanding of their prior medical history. As they are being on-boarded, it is also important to have employees fill out a post-hire questionnaire that asks about employees’ past injuries and medical conditions.
While this would not play a role in the hiring process, post-hire questionnaires provide a form of proof to use in the courtroom should a workers’ comp case arise. The questionnaires can help determine whether or not an injury may be pre-existing or, perhaps, indicate fraud.
For example, when an employee of one of our trucking clients was referred for two extensive back surgeries, it was discovered that the employee had permanent restrictions that he had denied on his post-hire questionnaire. Had the employer known of the permanent restrictions, he would not have been hired for the position. In this case, a post-hire questionnaire likely saved the company around $275,000.
The mobile and expansive nature of the trucking industry lends itself to potentially complicated workers’ comp claim mitigation, as the location of the claims handling process could occur in one or multiple states:
- The state where the injury occurred
- The state where the employer is headquartered
- The state where the employee permanently resides
With many location factors potentially at play, a trucking company should use jurisdiction forms to help assure that a claim settled is in a state with employer-favored workers’ comp laws.
For example, as a trucking company executive, you may prefer to mitigate claims in the state where your company is headquartered. Having employees sign a jurisdiction form provides proof of a formal agreement to handle a claim in-state, giving a judge further reason assign the case to your headquartered state. If you prefer the workers’ comp environment of another state, simply do not present the jurisdiction form as part of the claim.
While jurisdiction forms do not hold up 100% of the time, they can often carry sufficient weight for the claim to be handled in a state favorable to the employer, thus giving the trucking company further control over the claim.
Most trucking companies already have policies against drug use, but many of them do not formally apply for a state-granted drug-free workplace certification. In many states, if your company is formally recognized as a drug-free workplace by the state, it will allow a workers’ comp case to be automatically denied if the injured employee tests positive in a drug screening. Without this designation, even if drugs are found to be involved in the claim, you would likely have to file a drug accident claim – meaning the mitigation process continues, potentially only resolving in a courtroom.
In the trucking industry, as in all industries, workers’ comp claims are impossible to fully prevent. But by having these workers’ comp tools at your disposal, your trucking company will be armed and ready to defer bringing a claim to the courtroom - saving significant money along the way.
Corey Lile is the founder and CEO of OccuSure Workers’ Compensation Specialists, a Brentwood, Tennessee-based Managing General Agent specializing in lowering workers’ compensation claims. Learn more at www.occusure.com.