A threat hidden in plain sight: work-related traffic injuries

Traffic accidents are a major but often-overlooked source of occupational injuries for North Carolina workers and others throughout the nation. Contrary to what many people may assume, however, the risk of job-related car accidents is not necessarily highest for those who drive for a living.

Transportation injuries more likely to be severe, data shows

Car and truck accidents account for the biggest share of occupational transportation injuries. However, as defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, work injuries in this category also include aviation, boating and railroad injuries, as well as those involving pedestrians struck by motor vehicles.

In 2013, BLS data shows, a total of 1,740 workers nationwide were killed in job-related transportation incidents - nearly 40 percent of all work-related fatalities for the year. In addition to those killed, many more workers suffered nonfatal transportation injuries. Compared with other types of work injuries, transportation-related injuries are more likely to be severe or catastrophic, according to statistics from the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI).

As with car accidents in general, neck and back injuries are among those most frequently suffered by workers as a result of on-the-job crashes. In the most serious cases, injuries to the neck and back can result in paralysis or death, as well as debilitating pain, nerve damage and other problems.

Because work-related traffic accidents are more likely to result in severe injuries, they typically have a longer recovery period than other occupational injuries - more than one-third longer on average, NCCI data shows. Furthermore, because workers often travel together in the same vehicle, a single accident is more likely to result in multiple injuries and workers' compensation claims.

Risk is not limited to professional drivers

Although truckers and delivery workers may some of the first occupations that spring to mind, the risk of being injured in a work-related crash extends well beyond the realm of professional drivers.

In fact, according to a 2014 article published by Business Insurance, on-the-job car accidents typically affect workers who are not professional drivers. Not only are these employees less likely to have undergone on-the-job training to develop their defensive driving skills, but they also may be less familiar with their routes and environments, thus increasing the potential for a crash.

Thus, the risk of being involved in a car accident on the job may actually be higher for employees whose work focuses less directly on driving, such as traveling salespeople, regional managers and others who move frequently between work sites.

Legal help is available for injured workers

If you or a family member has been hurt in a work-related car accident or other occupational injury, you may have a right to receive financial benefits through the North Carolina worker's compensation system. To learn more about your options and for help pursuing a maximum settlement, set up a consultation with the skilled worker's compensation lawyers at The Bollinger Law Firm, PC.