Attention truck drivers: You have performed a vital service during the coronavirus crisis by transporting food and other necessities throughout the country, and your efforts are much appreciated. We want to make sure that if you are a driver based in Pennsylvania and injure yourself in an accident on the road, you will have a viable Pennsylvania workers’ compensation claim — even if it occurs in another state. You may also have a claim if you contract the coronavirus as a result of being exposed while performing your job. Here are some basic principles of Pennsylvania workers’ comp. law that you should know if you are a truck driver.
If you are a driver and get involved in an accident, the state which will have jurisdiction over your workers’ comp. claim (in other words the state in which you will have a valid claim) depends on various factors.
One ironclad rule is if your accident happens in Pennsylvania, you will definitely have a workers’ comp. claim in Pennsylvania. That is the case even if you live in another state and do very little of your work in Pennsylvania. So if you live in North Carolina and are on a two-day run to Maine, and on the way get involved in an accident in Pennsylvania, then you are entitled to Pennsylvania workers’ comp. benefits —money for lost wages if you cannot work and payment of medical bills.
This also holds true if you stop at a warehouse in Pennsylvania to unload your truck and pull your back out lifting boxes off a skid. Even if you live in another state and do most of your work in states other than Pennsylvania, your workers’ comp. claim belongs in Pennsylvania because that’s where you injured yourself.
Suppose, though, that you are a driver who was hired by a company in Pennsylvania and pick up your truck at the start of each depot in Philadelphia. If you haul loads to many different states — as far south as Florida and as far west as Illinois — and get injured in another state, there could be a dispute whether your claim belongs in Pennsylvania or the state where you injured yourself. For example, let’s say you injured yourself in Ohio. You may want to file your claim in Pennsylvania because you were hired in that state, picked up your truck there when you began your runs, and did a substantial amount of driving in Pennsylvania as you started in Philadelphia and would drive down the Turnpike to Ohio and points west or down Route 95 to Delaware and points south.
The issue of which state has jurisdiction over your workers’ comp. claim is important because workers’ comp. law varies, sometimes significantly, from state to state. Pennsylvania has more favorable workers’ comp. laws than most states, and while your employer may want your claim to be governed by the law on another state, such as Ohio in this instance, it is likely in your best interest for Pennsylvania law to govern your case because your workers’ comp. benefits will be better.
Please also be aware that if you develop coronavirus symptoms while driving or soon after you return home from completing a run, and you get the bad news that you have tested positive for COVID-19, you have a potential workers’ comp. claim. It is not as clear-cut as if you have a motor vehicle accident or hurt yourself lifting a box because these are discrete events. It may be difficult to pinpoint the development of coronavirus to one particular exposure. But if you develop your symptoms —cough, fever, loss if smell — while on a run down to Florida, you have a possible Pennsylvania workers’ comp. claim if your employment is sufficiently connected to Pennsylvania — you were hired there, picked your truck up there, etc.
At Pearson Koutcher Law, workers’ comp. is all we do. We have represented many truck drivers over the years and consistently achieved excellent results in their cases. So if you are a truck driver working hard during these difficult times and injure yourself or develop the coronavirus, please contact us, and one of our experienced, knowledgeable Pennsylvania workers’ comp. lawyers will discuss your case with you.