In a typical year in Iowa, there are 40 to 60 work fatalities—work injuries in which the worker loses his or her life.  The majority of these major incidents are motor vehicle crashes on highways, and a high percentage of the victims are truckers.  There are millions of miles driven by truckers in Iowa every year, and the industry is a hopeless jumble of employees, independent contractors, and every nuance in between.  This is an industry where the cost of insurance is high, and there are significant efforts to do anything to hold down the cost of compensation for work injuries. 

It is not uncommon for major carriers to take steps aimed at disguising their relationship with drivers as “independent contractors.”  Certainly, it is true that anyone can buy a semi-trailer and offer their services as a mover of freight for money.  That’s referred to as being an “owner-operator.”  When you offer freight services on that basis, if you are injured in a wreck, you cannot make a claim for compensation against the person who was shipping cargo in your truck in exchange for a price.  That is an independent contract relationship—not employment. 

When trucking became big business after WWII, trucking companies began to take steps to evade the cost of compensation by claiming that all their drivers were independent contractors, and not employees.  Elaborate contracts were drafted up to accomplish this, and the area became very complicated. 

Section 85.61 of the Iowa Code contains a subsection aimed at drawing some lines in this area.  For example, if a carrier claims that a driver is an independent contractor, the carrier is not likely to succeed unless the driver actually holds title to the truck.  There are further complexities to this that are too lengthy to properly describe in a short blog post (such as when the carrier claims to be “selling” the truck to the driver, over a long period of time).  If you are in a confusing employment-or-contractor situation as a trucker, and suffering from work injury, please consider consulting the Ellis Law Offices, P.C. to guide you toward ironing out the situation to your benefit. 

Stay tuned for more information on the “injury” element of a workers’ compensation case. 

This information does not develop an attorney-client relationship and is not legal advice.  You should consult with an attorney for advice on any estate planning.   

Author: Peter M. Sand

Photo by Dale Staton on Unsplash

Ashley Allen