Injured Truck Drivers and North Carolina Workers’ Comp Claims

Many truck drivers can file their injury claims here in North Carolina even if the driver is hurt in another state.  This is because of the “jurisdiction” rules of the NC Workers’ Compensation Act.  The workers’ compensation benefits under NC law may be better than the benefits in other states.  For instance, Florida only allows 104 weeks of TTD (temporary total disability) payments.   North Carolina allows up to 500 weeks of TTD.   Being able to pursue your claim under North Carolina workers’ comp law is important if you live here in our state.  Your doctors are likely to be here near your home, and it is much easier to fight the insurance company here on your home turf than to have to travel to Kansas or Oregon to do it.  Under NCGS 97-36, an injured worker can file his or her claim in North Carolina if:

1.  The driver was hurt inside North Carolina, or

2.  The driver entered into the “contract of employment” while in the State of North Carolina, but was hurt somewhere else, or

3.  The Employer’s principal place of business is in the State of North Carolina, or

4.  The Employee’s principal place of employment is within the State of North Carolina.

Now, as you might imagine, these four tests have been the subject of disputes in the past, and our courts have had to interpret what these things mean.

The first test is easy.  Did you get hurt inside North Carolina or not?  If you did, I think the North Carolina Industrial Commission has jurisdiction, and you need to pursue your case right here in North Carolina.

The second test is a little more complex.  In what state was the driver when the final act that created the contract of employment occur?   Sometimes, long haul drivers get “hired” over the phone.  They are sitting in their home in NC when a recruiter who may be sitting at a desk in Minnesota offers the driver a job, and then instructs the driver to travel to Omaha, Nebraska, or someplace like that, for a few days of training with the company.   While in Omaha, the final paperwork required to hire the driver is completed–tax forms, insurance forms, signing that you got the company manual, etc.  When you then get hurt in Arkansas, the trucking company you work for wants to argue that the last act of forming your “contract of employment” occurred in Nebraska, so you cannot pursue your workers’ comp case back home in North Carolina, where your doctors are.   So, this last act of forming the contract can have a big impact on your case.

The third test involves the location of the “employer’s principal place of business.”  Generally speaking, if the employer trucking company has a terminal in North Carolina, that is considered to be a “principal place of business” for the employer, and a driver for that company who is hurt anywhere else in the country can pursue a workers’ comp claim here in NC.

The fourth test is, where is the driver’s “principal place of employment”?  For a truck driver who works in several states as he or she drives to various terminals and delivery points, the question of “Employee’s principal place of business” can be complicated.  Sometimes your log book will provide the answer– one can create a map showing were the driver was on any particular day, using the log book and Google maps.  If a good portion of the work time was spent in North Carolina, then NC should have jurisdiction over the injury, even if it happened anywhere else in the country.   Ideally, the driver should have spent more time in North Carolina than in any other single state for this test to be a clear winner for the driver.

Bob Bollinger has handled many cases for professional truck drivers during his 28 year legal career.  If you drive for a living and have been hurt at work, do not hestitate to contact Bob for a free consultation.  That one conversation could save you a lot of headaches, and money, even if you don’t hire a lawyer.  So don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need some advice from a workers’ compensation Specialist lawyer.  You can reach Bob at 704-377-7677.  Here is a link to his contact page and biographical information.

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