While everyone has been forced to make adjustments to cope with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, few have been hit as hard as so-called “essential workers.” Health care workers, grocery stores stockers and checkers, and truckers have faced new, escalating difficulties.
We depend on truckers to get food and other vital supplies to communities all around the country, but truck drivers remain vulnerable to COVID-19. If you’re a trucker who’s contracted COVID-19, it’s important to speak to a workers’ compensation attorney. You may be able to seek financial compensation from your employer’s workers’ comp policy.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Truckers and Trucking Companies
Truckers and trucking companies are facing new challenges due to the epidemic. While truckers themselves have been classified as essential workers, their support teams have been forced to stay home, and some trucking-support businesses have shut down.
Fewer restaurants are open, and those that are may only have limited service. Nationally, many rest stops are closed, and those that are open may limit access to their bathrooms and other facilities. Without support staff and facilities, truckers face much more challenging conditions on the road than they did even six months ago.
ABC affiliate WMDT interviewed Kenneth Rantz, the owner of Rantz Trucking. He told the station about some of the difficult changes his employees are dealing with. “They have to be able to park the truck in a safe haven parking place, and a lot of those have been closed by governors. And places that we are allowed to park there’s no bathroom facilities or restaurants or carry out facilities.”
Some truckers lack adequate protective gear to keep them safe in their travels around the country. Their working environment – fuel stations, truck stops, and fast-food restaurants, warehouses – is full of places where many people congregate.
Truckers have no way of knowing whether the managers have implemented sufficient hygiene procedures to prevent exposure. They have to touch fuel pumps, credit card readers, and other equipment that may not have been properly sanitized. Unfortunately, this greatly increases their likelihood of contracting COVID-19, a disease that can take months to recover from or prove fatal.
Tips and Advice for Drivers While on the Road During the Pandemic
All truckers know that safety on the road is paramount. Unfortunately, staying healthy has become more difficult.
Here are a few tips if you’re a trucker who’s been unable to take time off during the pandemic:
- Stay in your vehicle as much as possible, particularly when cargo is being loaded or unloaded. Keep your windows up when talking to people to minimize your chance of exposure.
- Be particularly careful when touching fuel pumps. Don’t touch them with your bare hands. They’re often the dirtiest areas of a gas station or truck stop.
- Spend the night in your sleeper berth if your travels take you through a COVID-19 “hot spot,” so that you aren’t exposed to the virus.
- Try to touch shared objects as little as possible. Objects like pens, cups, clipboards, credit cards, and ATMs could be contaminated.
- Use a mask and gloves when you need to interact with other people.
- Try to use digital paperwork whenever possible. It can help you avoid viral contamination from receipts, paper forms, and so on.
- Wash your hands regularly. If you need to use hand sanitizer instead of soap, make sure it contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Follow trustworthy news sources that publish the latest scientific information about the pandemic.
Does Workers’ Compensation Cover COVID-19?
COVID-19 didn’t exist even a year ago. For that reason, even experienced worker’s comp attorneys have little information on how coverage applies to COVID-19. Regulations will vary from state to state, and most state legislatures are still in the early stages of developing rules on pandemic-related workers’ comp claims.
In some states, you can file an occupational disease claim for work-related illnesses. The rules regarding these claims differ across the country. Some states have specific laws on their books regarding these claims, while other states let the courts decide which claims are valid or invalid. Some states require workers who file claims to show a specific causal link between their job and the illness. In other states, you only have to show that your job was the proximate cause of your illness.
According to OH&S, most of the case law applicable to occupational disease claims relate to health care workers. But things have changed. Given the global spread of the coronavirus and how many truckers have been forced to keep working in dangerous conditions, the law regarding these claims could well change and expand to include truckers. Workers comp lawyers expect either the courts, state, or federal legislatures to answer the crucial question, “Does workers’ compensation cover COVID-19?”
Reasons to Hire a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
There’s no doubt that it’s a difficult time to drive a truck, particularly if you’ve gotten sick while working. COVID-19 can have serious, long-lasting health consequences, so you may need workers’ compensation benefits that pay for your medical treatment, lost earnings, and other consequences of your illness.
Workers’ compensation cases are tricky under the best of circumstances, and workers’ comp claims related to COVID-19 are largely uncharted legal territory. You’ll have the best chance of getting the compensation you need when you have the services of an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.
At the Jebaily Law Firm, workers’ compensation claims are one of our major areas of practice. We’re dedicated to helping truckers who’ve been injured on the job or developed a work-related illness seek the workers’ compensation benefits they’re entitled to.
We treat all our clients with the care and respect they deserve, and we fight aggressively on their behalf. Our attorneys work on a contingency basis, so we get paid only when you do.
We’ve served South Carolina workers for 50 years, and we look forward to hearing from you. Call our office to find out more about how we can help you with your workers’ compensation claim or contact us online.