Driving a taxicab is a dangerous job. Taxicab drivers must drive complete strangers while alone in their taxis navigating New Jersey’s busy city streets and highways. If they are injured on the job, they may find it even more challenging than workers in other professions to obtain the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve. Fortunately, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help taxicab drivers fight to enforce their rights under New Jersey’s workers’ compensation laws.
What Are the Common Ways Taxicab Drivers Are Injured When on the Job?
Taxi drivers face distinct hazards when driving their taxis. Some of the ways they can be hurt include:
- Vehicle accidents. No matter how careful a taxicab driver is, he is at increased risk of being injured in a vehicle accident caused by another driver. Texting, talking on a cellphone, speeding, and driving while intoxicated are a few of the causes of these crashes. Taxicab drivers can suffer devastating injuries like traumatic brain injury, back, neck, and spinal injuries, paralysis, broken bones, and internal organ damage.
- Repetitive motion injuries. Taxicab drivers can suffer neck, back, and shoulder injuries from the repetition of loading and unloading passengers’ luggage and packages. In addition, they can develop carpel tunnel syndrome from constantly gripping the steering wheel and other repetitive motion injuries from the movements they must make repeatedly while driving.
- Violence. Because taxicab drivers handle money, work alone, sometimes in isolated areas and at night, and must work with customers who may be aggressive, intoxicated, or have mental health issues, they are at a high risk of being the victim of a crime. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), taxi drivers are 20 times more likely to be murdered while on the job than other workers. In addition, they face the constant threat of other violent crimes, such as being assaulted or robbed.
- Secondhand smoke. While many taxicab companies ban smoking in taxis, a taxicab driver could develop occupational diseases like lung cancer, COPD, and other respiratory conditions from secondhand exposure to smoke if smoking in the cab is permitted.
Unique Challenges Taxicab Drivers Must Overcome in Filing Workers’ Compensation Claims
Unlike employees who work in other professions, taxicab drivers who must file a workers’ compensation claim must often fight over whether they even qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. This is because employers and their insurance companies often argue that taxicab drivers are independent contractors instead of employees and are therefore not eligible for workers’ compensation.
The determination of whether a taxicab driver is an independent contractor or employee will be based on many factors. In general, the more control an employer has over a taxicab driver, the more likely that the driver will be found to be an employee who is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Some of the factors that will help show that a taxicab driver is an employee include:
- The employer supplies equipment and materials.
- The taxicab driver is required to wear a uniform.
- The taxicab driver is prohibited from driving for other companies.
- The employer withholds federal, state, and social security taxes from the employee’s wages.
- The driver accepts radio calls from the taxicab company.
- The taxicab company is responsible for repairs to the taxi.
- The vehicle has the company logo, name, and telephone number painted on it.
- The employer has control over the taxis and could deny a taxicab driver access to a taxi.
- The taxicab company sets the driver’s work schedule and driving jobs.
In addition to the added complexities to a taxi driver’s workers’ compensation claim, he may also have a claim against additional parties that could increase the likelihood that he will be fully compensated for his injuries. For example, a driver injured in an accident caused by a negligent driver may be able to file a lawsuit against the driver as well as file a claim for workers’ comp. If the driver was a victim of a crime, he may be able to sue the perpetrator of the crime.
Are you a taxicab driver who was injured while on the job? Manfred Ricciardelli has been helping workers like you for over 20 years. Start an online chat to schedule your free consultation to learn about your legal options.