Injured in a Work Vehicle Accident? Here’s What You Need to Know
Workers’ compensation benefits help employees injured in work-related accidents to recover the financial losses related to lost wages and medical bills incurred. Can a person claim workers’ compensation if injured in a motor vehicle accident at work? Our article explains.
What is the leading cause of work-related deaths in the U.S.? While slip-and-falls, collisions with an object, and machine entanglements are all some of the most common accidents in the workplace, none of them can claim the title of most dangerous. According to statistics, it is work-related motor vehicle accidents that pose the greatest threat to the lives of workers in the U.S.
As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), such accidents caused 25,000 deaths from 2003 to 2016. As millions of workers ride in or drive a vehicle as a part of their jobs, thousands more get injured in motor vehicle crashes every day while performing some work-related duties. In many circumstances, a person injured in a work vehicle accident may be entitled to receive money in damages for the injuries sustained in workers’ compensation benefits.
In this article, we will explain how work vehicle accident is defined and what an injured worker should do to be eligible for compensation.
How Can ‘Work Vehicle Accident’ Be Defined?
As a rule, in order to be able to obtain benefits from a workers’ compensation program, the injuries a person sustained in an accident must be work-related. Any injury that occurs while an employee is performing an action for the benefit of the employee – be it within the workplace or outside of it – will usually be considered work-related. According to this definition, if a person gets into a motor vehicle accident while driving or riding for work-related purposes, they may be entitled to workers’ compensation. This scenario may apply to employees who routinely operate vehicles as a part of their job, such as:
- warehouse personnel
- machinery operators
- cab drivers
- tour guides
…and others. However, even when an employee is simply running an errand for their company – such as providing transportation for another employee or making a delivery – they may be able to collect workers’ compensation benefits if injured in a motor vehicle accident. On the other hand, commuting to work in your own vehicle or in the company’s vehicle, does not usually count as a work-related activity. An exception to this would be if a worker is paid for their travel time to and from home.
What To Do After a Work Vehicle Accident?
Seeking appropriate medical help should be the priority after any accident and a workplace accident is by no means an exception to this rule. Nevertheless, in order to be eligible for benefits, employees are obliged to inform the employer about the accident and injury as soon as possible. This must be done via a Notice of Accident form that must be filled with the employer no later than within 15 days from the date of the accident.
Workers will do well to remember that compensation can be claimed even if the employee was at fault or partially at fault in the accident in which he or she got injured. However, different and more complicated rules usually apply for professional drivers such as truck drivers. In addition, employees must realize that by applying for workers’ compensation benefits, they forfeit the right to bring a civil lawsuit against their employer.
What Damages Are Covered?
Workers’ compensation benefits only cover quantifiable losses such as medical expenses or lost wages. Pain and suffering damages cannot be claimed. In order to obtain full compensation for all sustained losses, a worker should document all medical treatments and procedures administered and as much information about the accident and its consequences as possible.
It is important to note that a person who sustained injuries in a work vehicle accident that was caused by another person – for example, a negligent driver – may have the right to bring a personal injury lawsuit against that person along with a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. In such case, the lawsuit will proceed independently and according to the laws and procedures regulating such claims in New Mexico.