Car accidents are a major cause of workers’ comp claims

One of the biggest causes of work-related injuries is also a leading cause of injury during off-the-clock hours: traffic accidents. Although easily overlooked as an occupational hazard, transportation-related injuries account for nearly 40 percent of on-the-job fatalities, according to 2013 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Traffic accidents are also a major cause of serious, non-fatal work injuries across a wide variety of industries in California and beyond.

A higher incidence of serious injuries

Due to the nature of the injuries they tend to involve, work-related car accidents make up a large proportion of serious workers' compensation claims. Compared to many other types of work injuries, occupational vehicle accidents are more likely to involve injuries to the head, neck and back. Often, those injuries are relatively severe and debilitating, requiring longer healing time as well as more intensive medical and rehabilitative care. On average, crash-related work injuries require recovery times that are about one-third longer than average, according to data from the National Council on Compensation Insurance.

Who is at risk of work-related car accidents?

A common misconception is that the risk of occupational crashes is highest for full-time drivers, such as long-haul truckers and delivery drivers. In fact, however, occupational car accidents affect workers across a wide range of industries, and the risks may be greater among those who do not drive as their primary occupation. This is due in part to the fact that professional drivers are more likely to receive on-the-job training to promote safe driving practices.

What employers can do to keep drivers safe

Ongoing driver training is one of 10 steps recommended by OSHA to help employers reduce the risk of work-related vehicle accidents. Others include:

  • Having clear traffic safety policies and procedures in place.
  • Establishing incentive programs and disciplinary structures to promote safe driving practices.
  • Asking employees to sign a traffic safety agreement if they drive for work.
  • Performing regular vehicle maintenance and inspections.
  • Creating a crash reporting and investigation process.

Additionally, OSHA encourages employers to promote a safety-oriented culture in the workplace by encouraging employees at all levels to participate and contribute to discussions about crash prevention.

Protecting your interests after a crash

Workers who are injured in traffic accidents are often able to recover financial compensation for their injuries, medical costs, lost wages and other damages. Depending on the circumstances, injured drivers and passengers may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits and other forms of compensation. California workers who have been injured in a crash are encouraged to contact Bender & Gritz, APLC, to learn more about their rights and legal options under California law.