Misclassified Truckers, Junk Work Injuries, and California Disability Policies
How likely are you to become disabled? You are probably guessing that the chances are slim. As per the Social Security Administration, the regular 20-year-old employee has a one-in-four opportunity of becoming disabled due to injury or illness before reaching age 67. Of course, your chances get influenced by what you do for a living and receiving types of insurance.
Insurance Companies and Misclassified Truckers
Truck drivers working at California ports, notably in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Long Beach, have made headlines recently due to trucking companies’ refusal to classify them as workers instead of independent contractors. One of the numerous ways these people become more susceptible due to misclassification as independent contractor is that they don’t have access to Workers’ Compensation Insurance if they become handicapped or injured in the workplace. Instead, trucking companies typically obtain and bill the driver for “occupational accident” insurance.
On the other hand, these plans are frequently junk insurance that provides little to no disability coverage and nothing akin to a Workers’ Compensation network in the event that a driver becomes crippled or injured in the workplace.
Trucking businesses typically obtain collective or “master” policies from their insurance firm. A certificate of coverage is subsequently “issued to the individual… persons who get insured thereunder” under their master policy. (Reiner v. U.S. Life Insurance Company of New York, 69 Fed. Appx. 965, 969 (10th Cir. 2003) (internal citations omitted).)
The price of the plans is normally taken from the drivers’ paychecks by the truck company. The drivers are rarely given copies of this coverage and have no idea what kind of disability insurance they have.
The refusal to give an actual copy of the policies violates California law, which mandates that disability or retirement benefits be disclosed, including “the major benefits and coverage… [and] the exceptions, reductions, and limitations that apply to such policy.” (10604 -10605 Insurance Code.)
It’s All Bogus…
Drivers generally discover how bogus the coverage under an occupational accident policy is after they have gotten disabled or hurt and have attempted to collect compensation from insurance companies.
When the claim gets refused, the drivers hear about the accurate limited coverage and significant exclusions for the first time.
Furthermore, the plans frequently work in unison with the truck businesses’ efforts to misclassify. They specifically state that if the truck driver contests their misclassification and makes a worker’s compensation disability claim, the policy benefits get forfeited.
As a result, drivers frequently find themselves in a Catch-22 situation, with no recourse for any work-related injuries.
Since they get classified as independent contractors, they are not eligible for Workers’ Compensation, and the plans issued to them by trucking companies do not provide adequate coverage for short-term disability insurance or long-term disability plans.
Here, insurance firms collaborate with trucking businesses in order to profit from the misclassification and avoid providing proper coverage and long-term and short-term benefits to disabled and injured truck drivers needing a truck accident attorney. The practice, on the other hand, is highly subject to criticism.
When the insurer’s disclosures disclose “inadequate information” about the coverage offered, California courts declined to “allow a master policy to prevail over an inadequate Certificate.” (Hall v. National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA(S.D. Cal. 2010), 2010 WL 2650271, *9.)
The restricted coverage offered under the master policies is rarely disclosed to drivers in advance. “An exclusion or limitation listed in a policy that the insured has never seen cannot possibly constitute adequate notice…” according to California law. (Russell v. Bankers Life Co., 46 Cal.App.3d 405, 413-14; Russell v. Bankers Life Co., 46 Cal.App.3d 405, 413-14.)
The little warning drivers give regarding the limited coverage available under the accidental job policies provides a strong foundation for going against any benefit refusal regarding a work-related or non-work-related illness.
Disability Insurance and Disability Benefits
Four of the most common types of disability insurance you may consider if you are an employer or employee include:
Private Plans Provided in the Workplace
Although this is not a corporate perk, some firms welcome insurers into their offices to market disability policies at group pricing.
Worksite or voluntary benefits are the terms used to describe these perks. They could be a good choice if the coverage is decent and the premiums are affordable due to group rates.
Private Individual Coverage
The most expensive form of disability insurance is private individual coverage. However, it is occasionally required to obtain adequate coverage. Request assistance from an insurance broker or your human resources department in evaluating your options from the many available sources and identifying gaps.
Consider your current coverage, including any out-of-pocket payments, benefit caps, and waiting periods, then choose an individual policy to fill up any gaps. If the price is too high, investigate if you can forego some features in exchange for the essentials.
The following are examples of possible tradeoffs:
- It reduces the time it takes to get paid (e.g., benefits for only five years vs. until retirement age).
- You accept that your benefits get decreased or negated if you get money from other sources, such as SSDI.
When you need to acquire your disability and health insurance, another approach to save money is to go through a professional group or association. Group plans are sometimes available through clubs, unions, and professional organizations.
Workplace Private Disability Insurance
You can get short-term and long-term disability insurance. Even if your employer provides a disability plan that restores a portion of your salary, you may need to “buy up” additional cover. Typically, the idea is to get enough insurance to replace 66 percent of your income for sick leave, lost wages, or other payment.
Contact Ehline Law Firm for More Information
If you want more details regarding whether you may get covered, contact Ehline Law Firm today at (213) 596-9642. Our friendly and charismatic attorneys are always ready to help you regarding issues with your insurer or employers.
Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of the largest motorcycle accident settlements in U.S. History. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves in being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride, and a a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.
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