Unless you drive a truck, taxi or delivery vehicle, you may not give much thought to the risk that you could be hurt in a car accident on the job. However, occupational traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of workers' compensation claims in the United States. Furthermore, the risk is not limited to people who drive for a living. In fact, it may be higher for those whose on-the-job driving is more limited.
Risk affects workers in a wide range of occupations
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, about four out of every 10 work-related deaths in 2013 was the result of a car crash or other vehicle accident. Traffic accidents are also a major cause of non-fatal work injuries, both here in Wisconsin and around the country. When car accidents result in occupational injuries, those injuries are often more severe than the average work injury. According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, workers hurt in car accidents take about one-third longer to recover than those injured under other circumstances.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, people may be at an increased risk of work-related car accidents when the driving they do is incidental to their primary occupation. Unlike professional full-time drivers, other workers who spend time on the road or traveling between job sites - such as regional managers, sales professionals and installation technicians - often do not have specialized safety training to help minimize the risk of accidents. They also may be more likely to crash due to being less familiar with their routes and surroundings. In some cases, looking at a map or navigation device to find their way around an unfamiliar area may contribute to distracted driving accidents for these employees. Given that workers' compensation is a "no fault" system, virtually all of these injured employees should be entitled to benefits.
Compensation may be available for on-the-job crash injuries
If you are involved in a crash while driving for work in Wisconsin, it is important to understand that you may be entitled to medical and financial benefits through the workers' compensation system. Under most circumstances, this is true even if the accident was your fault. The specific types of compensation available vary from case to case, but may include:
- Lost wages due to temporary disability during a healing period
- Medical expenses
- Permanent disability or disfigurement benefits
- Loss of earning capacity
- Training or educational expenses for a change of occupation
- Death benefits for surviving dependents in the event of a fatal accident
Workers' compensation and personal injury claim
If a worker suffers an on-the-job car accident that was caused by the negligence of another driver, the injured worker may be able to pursue a workers' compensation claim and a personal injury claim. These claims are not mutually-exclusive and can be pursued at the same time. If there is a responsible party outside of the worker's employer (i.e., a negligent driver), these "third-party" claims can be pursued in civil court, which involves very different damages than those available in workers' compensation. A worker injured in a motor vehicle accident should be aware of the possibility of both types of claims.
For more information about your legal rights and the compensation that may be available after a work-related injury in Wisconsin, contact the workers' compensation attorneys at Domer Law to discuss the specific circumstances of your situation.