Category Archives: Truckers

Hear Recent America’s Truckin’ Network Podcasts on Truckers: Prescriptions and Workers’ Comp

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Last week, Rehm, Bennett & Moore owner Rod Rehm was featured on America’s Truckin’ Network, which is an overnight show that runs on both Sirius/XM channel 166 and 700 WLW-AM out of Cincinnati. Mr. Rehm and show host Mr. Steve Sommers discussed some of the nuances of workers’ compensation law when it comes to drivers, specifically focusing on issues like the special challenges truck drivers have in taking prescription drugs if they’re hurt. The requirements of the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (USDOT FMCSA) rules and regulations make this topic more complicated for truckers.

During that time, the two also took truckers’ calls and discussed topics that included details about workers’ compensation injuries; when to get an attorney involved; the overuse of opiates in the legal world; and more about work injury and drug interactions/intoxication. Mr. Rehm elaborates on this information, providing more details in the podcasts linked to below. 

America’s Truckin’ Network runs from 11 p.m. through 4 a.m. (midnight to 5 a.m. Eastern Time) on 700 WLW-AM, and we greatly appreciate the chance to help educate truckers about workers’ compensation matters. For questions about a specific injury or workers’ compensation claim, please contact an attorney. Mr. Rehm has represented truckers for over 30 years, 15 of which have been through the website www.truckerlawyers.com.

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Former President of Chemical Company Sentenced for Federal Crimes Related to Employee Deaths

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Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from ehstoday.com. Mr. Jon Gelman is a respected colleague who focuses on workers’ compensation in New Jersey.

As the post points out, it is unusual, but not unheard of, for an employer to be charged and sentenced for Occupational Safety and Health Act violations. In fact, in 2012, I wrote about a situation that happened at a Nebraska grain elevator that caused a worker’s death and resulted in a misdemeanor charge, including a $100,000 fine and 2 years of probation for the employer.

The article below is important for a number of reasons. First, two truck drivers, Joey Sutter and Charles Sittig, died as a result of chemical exposure to hydrogen sulfide through their work. Next, the company’s former president, Matthew Lawrence Bowman, was sentenced to serve 12 months in federal prison and also fined $5,000, according to the article. As president of his company, Port Arthur Chemical and Environmental Services LLC (PACES) of Port Arthur, Texas, Bowman even directed some of the violations. And these actions were “criminally negligent,” according to John M. Bales, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas.

Although no amount of prison time or fines can bring the drivers back to their loved ones, it is good to see someone being held at least a little bit accountable for the dangers of this company’s practices.

Matthew Lawrence Bowman, the former president of Port Arthur Chemical and Environmental Services LLC (PACES) finally had his (sentencing) day in court. Bowman pleaded guilty on May 9 to violating the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). It is rare for individuals to be prosecuted and sentenced to violations of the OSH Act.Bowman admitted to not properly protecting PACES employees from exposure to hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas resulting in the death of truck driver Joey Sutter on Dec. 18, 2008. In addition, Bowman admitted to directing employees to falsify transportation documents to conceal that the wastewater was coming from PACES after a disposal facility put a moratorium on all wastewater shipments from PACES after received loads containing hydrogen sulfide. He was sentenced to serve 12 months in federal prison on Oct. 28 by U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone. Bowman was also ordered to pay fines in the amount of $5,000.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Robert G. Dreher called the sentence “a just punishment” for Bowman’s actions, which placed workers “at unacceptable risk and had fatal consequences.”

“The Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to vigorously investigate and prosecute those who violate the laws enacted to ensure the safety of workers handling hazardous materials and to prevent the kind of tragedies that…

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Truckers Face Roadblocks for FMLA

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Can a trucker working for a large trucking company be excluded from the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)? The answer is possibly yes, but drivers who know the law may be able to preserve their rights.

The FMLA only covers employees that work within 75 miles of a company worksite that employs 50 or more people. Some trucking companies have tried to exclude their employees from the FMLA by getting creative with the definition of a “worksite.” This issue has been litigated and the courts are clear about what constitutes a worksite.

In the case of Cobb v. Contract Transport, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which covers Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, gave its interpretation of the Department of Labor’s regulations about the definition of a worksite. The court determined that a worksite (as defined by the FMLA) is a terminal that is owned and operated by the company. For example, if a driver reports to a truck stop but is dispatched out of company headquarters, a court that follows the Cobb decision would find the driver’s worksite to be company headquarters where the driver is dispatched. This would likely make the driver eligible for FMLA. You can read full text of the law the court cited here: 29 CFR § 825.111.

Of course, if a driver is dispatched out of a small satellite terminal, then a court could determine that the smaller facility is the true worksite and the employer may be able to exclude the driver from FMLA. The reason for this is that if a driver has to miss work for extended period of time, he or she may inconvenience the company if they would not have enough drivers dispatched out of that small terminal to cover all their routes.

Report Your Injury Right Away

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Truckers especially need to pay attention to this blog post. Most states require you to provide notice of your work injury to your employer as soon as is practicable. Failing to do so might prevent you from getting workers’ compensation benefits.

Because truckers are always on the go, sometimes they may not remember to report their injuries right away. Instead, maybe the trucker will simply finish the route and decide to get checked out later, completely forgetting to inform the employer. This can become a problem later and potentially could give your employer a reason to deny paying work comp benefits or paying for treatment for your work injury. Unfortunately, this is a fairly common mistake, as pointed out on one of the firm’s websites, www.truckerlawyers.com.

The moral of the story is if you’re hurt, tell your employer immediately. Communicate via your Qualcomm, call in, radio, email, or do whatever it takes, even if you have to call from the doctor’s office. Even if your injury seems insignificant at first, you’ll still want to give your employer notice. You’ll be better off in the long run.

Truck Drivers Beware – Your Insurance May Not be What You Think

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Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan from The Jernigan Law Firm in North Carolina. I found this an extremely helpful blog post for truckers and other independent contractors. Rehm, Bennett & Moore has represented truckers since the mid-1990s. Attorneys at the firm have helped truckers from all over the United States whose injuries are covered by Nebraska’s or Iowa’s laws. Generally, Nebraska and Iowa’s laws may be in effect if the accident the trucker is involved in happens here or if the trucking company’s corporate headquarters are here. As you read about the situation below, consider the following: an attorney will most likely be happy to look over a contract before you sign it; be sure to get a copy of any contract that you sign; and if you are in an accident, an attorney can make sure your rights and health are as protected as possible in your specific situation.

There is a scam out there and truck drivers are the victims, especially if they are seriously injured in a trucking accident. It works like this: an out of work driver hears about a job and fills out an application with a national trucking company. He then gets a call saying he has been accepted as a driver, contingent on a physical exam and a drug test. The driver is then asked to show up at work on an appointed date for his first delivery job. When he shows up he is asked to “sign papers” which allow him to lease/own the truck as he drives it across the country, and he signs a contract that declares that he is an independent contractor (although in reality the trucking company controls the deliveries and is the only source of revenue for the driver). Further, he is required to purchase accident insurance through a broker designated by the trucking company and the premiums are taken out of his paycheck. Because the driver is anxious to work again and is not particularly experienced in reviewing legal documents the driver signs the papers, gets in the truck and begins working again as an interstate truck driver.

The costs of this workplace injury are now shifted from the employer/insurer to the taxpayer.

Like most of us, these drivers never expect to be in a serious accident. If they unfortunately do have an accident while driving the truck, they look to the accident policy they purchased. If they are disabled, it pays the same benefits as workers’ compensation and provides medical coverage. Many drivers think they are actually on workers’ compensation. The catch is that all benefits stop after 104 weeks (2 years). If after that time if the driver is still disabled and still needs medical care, it is a shock to find out none is available under this contract.

Is there no hope for the truck driver under these circumstances?

Why 104 weeks? Most states have workers’ compensation systems that require the claim be filed within 2 years. Since the 2-year period has run, the driver is out of luck and cannot file for workers’ compensation under state law. What happens if the driver needs additional surgery and continues to remain disabled? Most likely federal assistance programs like Medicaid or Medicare enter the picture and the costs of this workplace injury are now shifted from the employer/insurer to the taxpayer.

If involved in a serious accident, be aware of the 104-week provision and file a workers’ compensation claim before that time period expires.

Is there no hope for the truck driver under these circumstances? Although it might be a tough fight, most workers’ compensation statutes specifically state that an employer cannot contract away its obligations under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Thus, the truck driver’s legal argument is that the contract designating the driver as an independent contractor was void as a matter of law. If the employee has been the subject of fraud, equity may allow the driver to go ahead and file a claim and pursue the action even through the 2-yr period has run. Under these circumstances, certainly in North Carolina, the driver would have an opportunity to pursue this claim.

The lesson to be learned by truck drivers is not to assume that the contract you have innocently signed is valid. If involved in a serious accident, be aware of the 104-week provision and file a workers’ compensation claim before that time period expires. Finally, if you are asked to sign one of these contracts and you have options of other employment, you may want to decline this job offer and work for a company that is more ethical. Your livelihood and the welfare of your family may depend on this important decision.

Rehm, Bennett & Moore sponsors recent #TDSMC (Truck Driver Social Media Convention)

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Firm owner Rod Rehm, associate Jon Rehm, and Emily Wray Stander, director of research and marketing, recently attended the 2nd Annual Truck Driver Social Media Convention in North Kansas City.

As the owner of www.truckerlawyers.com, Mr. Rod Rehm has been helping truckers through workers’ compensation and personal injury claims since the mid-1990s. So it was with a good deal of enthusiasm (and the fun of giving away around 125 insulated mugs in about 48 hours) that Rehm, Bennett & Moore chose to be a sponsor for this year’s convention.

Meeting the variety of truckers, trucker advocates, and trucking industry folks made the experience memorable for me, as did learning more about the industry itself with the many regulations, requirements, and challenges that truckers and their families face. And having recently been a volunteer coordinator of a reunion for hundreds of people, I appreciate the work that Allen and Donna Smith of www.askthetrucker.com did before, during, and after the convention!

There was the luxury of meeting others face-to-face who previously were known via “the Internets” and I even got to sit by some folks who I interact with on at least a weekly basis, if not more often. And meeting friends of friends was fun, too. Of course, there were also some excellent speakers who addressed the participants’ wide variety of experiences with social media. But it was pretty funny to look up from my phone and/or laptop to see others’ typing madly away, but also paying attention. That was encouraged by the Twitter hashtag #TDSMC. And speakers also addressed some social issues in trucking, such as stopping human trafficking and having safe places to park, that truckers encounter and can affect through their actions.

I was happy to read via http://www.truckingsocialmedia.com/ that the next convention dates have been announced: “3rd Annual Truck Driver Social Media Convention Tentative Dates: October 12th – 13th, 2013; Harrah’s Hotel and Convention Center; North Kansas City, Missouri.” I look forward to hearing more details as next year’s event approaches!

Does Moving To A Different State Affect My Workers’ Compensation Case?

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movingWe are frequently asked whether moving from one state to another will have any legal consequences for a workers’ compensation case. The answer is no. Your rights are not changed if you move from the state where the law is being applied to your case. If injured workers are entitled to benefits under a state’s law, it does not matter where the worker lives.

However, moving will have several practical effects on a workers’ compensation case. Benefit payments are sometimes interrupted with address changes, and injured workers must keep everyone advised of the correct address so checks can get to the right location. People who should be notified as soon as you know the new address include your lawyer and the insurance adjuster (if you are not represented). In certain states, you may also need to advise a state agency if the insurance is administered by a state fund.

Medical care becomes more complicated when an injured worker moves. State laws are different on who can pick your doctor, and moving usually requires changing doctors, therapists, and pharmacies. The workers’ compensation lawyer or his staff members should help you with these changes.

It is essential that injured workers get proper care. To get proper care, Continue reading

How Do We Earn Your Trust?

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Earning your client’s trust is a crucial part of being an attorney.

In its most basic form, trust is defined as “reliance on the integrity, strength, and ability of a person”.

Trust can also be defined as “a person on whom one relies”.

I was reminded of this earlier this week when a client for whom I had settled a case dropped by our office. This client had been a truck driver and lived out of state. While we were working on his case we never had the opportunity to meet in person, yet he came to trust me to look out for his best interests and advise him along the course of his workers’ compensation injury. He came by to thank me for the work I had done for him which had been completed over a year and a half ago.

As I spoke with him I began to understand how stressful it must be to trust someone who lives halfway across the country and with whom you may never meet in person. This is a unique aspect of trucking cases we handle which isn’t found in other types of work-related injuries.

Due to his injury he was unable to return to trucking. However, we were able to negotiate a settlement which allowed him to live his life Continue reading