Posted on Truck Accident Law Blog / Blog / Misclassified Truckers, Junk Work Injuries and California Disability Policies 101

Page Updated 12/06/2021

Misclassified Truckers, Junk Work Injuries and California Disability Policies 101


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 prior to reaching the age of 67. Of course, your chances get influenced by what you do for a living. 

Misclassified Truckers, Junk Work Injuries, and California Disability Policies

Insurance Companies and Misclassified Truckers

Truck drivers working at California ports, notably in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Long Beach, have made headlines in recent years 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 the misclassification as an independent contractor is that they don’t have accessibility to Workers’ Compensation if they become handicapped or injured in the workplace. Rather, trucking companies typically obtain and bill the driver for “occupational accident” insurance.

Junk Insurance

These plans, on the other hand, are frequently junk insurance that provides little to no actual 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 a real copy of the policies is in violation of California law, which mandates that disability benefits 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 true limited coverage and large exclusions for the first time.

Furthermore, the plans frequently work in unison with the truck businesses’ efforts to misclassify and 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 true coverage and long-term and short-term benefits to handicapped and injured truck drivers needing a truck accident attorney. The practice, on the other hand, is extremely subject to criticism.

When the insurer’s disclosures disclose “inadequate information” about the actual 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 almost never 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 limited warning given by drivers regarding the limited coverage available under the accidental job policies gives a strong foundation for going against any benefit refusal regarding a work-related illness 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 benefits or voluntary benefits are the terms used to describe these types of 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 sources available to you and identifying any 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:

  • Reducing the time it takes for you to get paid (e.g. benefits for only five years vs. until retirement age).
  • Accepting that your benefits get decreased or negated if you get money from other sources, such as SSDI.

Association Policies

When you need to acquire your own 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 income.

Contact Ehline Law Firm for More Information

If you would like more details regarding whether you may get covered or not, 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. 

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