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Are Truck Owner-Operators Eligible for Workers’ Compensation?

Are Truck Owner-Operators Eligible for Workers’ Compensation?


When seeking employment in the Illinois trucking industry, many individuals accept the role of an owner-operator. As an owner-operator, the truck driver enters an agreement under which they are considered to be an independent contractor and the owner of their own truck. There are perks that come with being an owner-operator, like the ability to set your own hours. However, in the unfortunate event of a work-related accident that results in an injury, truck owner-operators may have trouble getting workers’ compensation benefits. In fact, workers’ comp for owner-operator truck drivers is often flat-out denied by insurance companies, who cite the fact that the owner-operator is an independent contractor and not a protected employee of the trucking company. 

Many owner-operators choose to accept the denial and move on, but a 2007 Illinois Supreme Court ruling proves that, although they’re independent contractors, owner-operators might still be able to get workers’ comp benefits under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. Below, the Illinois workers’ comp attorneys at Rubens Kress & Mulholland will use the case of Roberson v. Industrial Commission to show how Illinois owner-operators might be able to secure workers’ compensation benefits.

Roberson v. Industrial Commission

In the case of Roberson v. Industrial Commission, a truck owner-operator (Roberson) injured his lower back while securing a load on his truck, resulting in a herniated disc. Roberson then applied for workers’ compensation benefits. The Industrial Commission determined that although he signed an independent contractor agreement, under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, Roberson was a protected employee. Unfortunately, the trucking company for which he was an owner-operator continually appealed this decision until the case went to the Illinois Supreme Court. 

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of Roberson, saying that the Industrial Commission’s determination that he was an owner-operator who could be considered an employee for the purpose of workers’ compensation had the proper evidence to support the decision.

What Does This Ruling Mean for Illinois Owner-Operators?

The basis of the ruling in Roberson v. Industrial Commission was that even though the truck owner-operator signed an independent contractor agreement, he could still be considered a protected employee under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. This is significant because it shows that if the insurance provider for an owner-operator’s employer denies their claim, the Workers’ Compensation Act may protect their potential to receive benefits.

The Importance of an Attorney in Owner-Operator Cases

Hiring a workers’ compensation attorney with experience in the trucking industry is imperative if you are an owner-operator seeking workers’ compensation benefits.

Rubens, Kress and Mulholland has a long history of representing truck drivers who are owner operators. We have settled dozens of cases for truck drivers who were offered nothing before they retained our firm on the basis they were independent contractors. We also have a significant case on the issue of whether an injured individual who was a bicycle messenger was an employee or an independent contractor which of course was resolved in our client’s favor. When you are an owner-operator it is not only important that you have an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer but one who is specifically experienced in handling the employee v. independent contractor issue that always comes up.  

Consult With Rubens Kress & Mulholland Today

The team at Rubens Kress & Mulholland possesses an extensive record of successful workers’ comp cases, many of which are in the trucking industry. If you are seeking workers’ comp for owner-operator truck drivers in Illinois, allow our Chicago-based attorneys to provide the uncompromising representation your case will require. Contact us online or call us toll-free at 866-890-9640 to schedule a consultation today.

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