Driving a truck is a hazardous job, and drivers get hurt at a frightening rate — sometimes badly. To deal with the risks associated with an on-the-job injury, many companies hire 1099 drivers and require them to buy occupational accident policies issued by Zurich Insurance Company, rather than utilizing workers compensation benefits. This is a thinly veiled scam that fattens profits of trucking companies at the expense of truck drivers.
These Zurich insurance policies are a poor substitute, costing drivers up to tens of thousands of dollars, and even more than $100,000 for seriously injured drivers. They deny you benefits that you are legally entitled to receive and deny access to cost-free, quality medical care that is one of the most basic workers compensation benefits drivers can receive.
What Is So Bad About Zurich Insurance?
The Zurich occupational accident policy is vastly inferior to workers compensation — it doesn’t measure up at all. These are some of the ways that the Zurich insurance policy is inferior to workers compensation benefits:
- Zurich doesn’t compensate injuries when you’re not “dispatched”. The scope of what is covered as an Occupational Injury under the Zurich insurance policy is much narrower than what is covered by workers compensation. To qualify for occupational injury coverage, you have to be under “dispatch” as defined by the policy. Things that you do during your mandated hours of rest while in between loads will frequently be covered by workers compensation, but not by Zurich. Bottom line: it’s Zurich’s policy and Zurich makes the rules.
- Zurich doesn’t pay you enough.The maximum weekly benefit is capped at a much lower rate under Zurich policy than in workers compensation. Under workers compensation you are entitled to Temporary Total Disability, equal to two-thirds of your average weekly wage. The Zurich insurance policy also has a weekly benefit, but it is not the same thing — the cap is much lower at $500 per week. That means that if your average weekly pay was over $750, you are getting short-changed every week by Zurich.
- Zurich doesn’t pay you as long. The Zurich policy places a limitation on how long you can receive disability checks. Workers compensation sets no limit to how long you can receive Temporary Total Disability checks. If you are one of the unlucky people who has serious injuries that require a long time to recover from and you are unable to work, then you can continue to receive Temporary Total Disability checks until you are either ready to go back to work or have settled your case. With the Zurich insurance policy, there is a two-year maximum to receive the $500 disability checks. After the two years — you are on your own.
- Zurich decides whether you deserve compensation. Payment of any benefits by Zurich depends on “objective medical evidence satisfactory to us.” With any kind of an accident claim, there is the potential for disputes about whether an injured driver is actually disabled from working or whether the disability is related to a work accident. When those kinds of disputes arise in a workers compensation case, a neutral third-party makes the decision. Zurich policy states that they decide whether or not they are going to pay the benefits. And there is no clear-cut mechanism for deciding a dispute over whether the benefits should be paid. Don’t trust them to make a choice between fattening their bottom line and helping you.
- Zurich leaves you stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. In Illinois, the Workers Compensation Act sets a fee schedule for medical expenses. Once the insurance company pays the amount set in the fee schedule, you don’t owe anything more. The Zurich insurance policy will pay your medical expenses, but there is nothing to prevent health care providers from charging you for what isn’t covered by Zurich. This could mean thousands of dollars in uncovered medical bills.
- Zurich sometimes charges deductibles. There may be a deductible in your Zurich policy for medical expenses. With workers compensation, there are no deductibles. Check your Zurich policy to see if this applies to you.
- Zurich limits therapy after an accident. The Zurich policy has an artificial cap on how much therapy you can receive. With workers compensation, you are entitled to receive all reasonably necessary care, treatment, and services. There are some injuries that require extensive therapy and work hardening to get you back to working. Zurich insurance only grants a total of 36 physical therapy, occupational therapy, or work hardening sessions. Need more? You won’t get it from Zurich.
- Zurich has ridiculous limits on mental health care Workers compensation doesn’t treat mental health treatment any differently from physical injury care. Zurich insurance limits you to 20 visits with a mental health care provider and only pays $25 per visit. If you have a mental health issue that relates to a workplace accident — and PTSD and depression are surprisingly common results of serious accidents — Zurich does not allow for the frequency of care required and does not come close to paying the mental health care professional’s fees.
- Zurich limits coverage for pre-existing conditions. Workers compensation law states that an employer must take the worker as they find him. In other words, if you have pre-existing problems or a congenital issue which makes you more susceptible to being hurt, that is something that the employer has to deal with. Zurich insurance excludes injuries that are a direct result of a pre-existing condition, until you have been covered for 12 consecutive months. If you get hurt before that first year is up, you are at risk of getting nothing from the policy.
- Zurich does not provide lump sum settlements unless you lose a hand, foot, or eye. One of the basic benefits under workers compensation is a lump sum settlement associated with the injury. The only way you can get any money from Zurich beyond the payment of medical expenses and the disability check is if you lose one or both feet, hands, or eyes, or the thumb and index finger from the same hand. Short of that — nothing. This is how injured drivers get shorted literally thousands upon thousands of dollars.
How Do They Get Away With It?
Truck drivers are often fabulously loyal to their companies. But when it comes to on-the-job injuries, that loyalty is a one-way street. The driver gives the loyalty, but rarely sees any in return.
When a 1099 driver is hurt on the job, the company will direct him to make a claim under the Zurich occupational accident policy, not telling him that he can make a workers compensation claim as well. And for those few drivers who make a workers compensation claim, the company threatens to stop paying the Zurich benefits (as lousy as they are) once the workers compensation claim is filed.
When the legislature passed the Workers Compensation Act, they intended for it to be a remedy for people hurt on the job — to stop employers or insurers from punishing or discouraging people from getting the compensation they are entitled to. Zurich insurance works to deny people their right to compensation.
In short, Zurich gets away with it because they are willing to gamble that very few people will realize this and call them out on it. They break the law.
What Can I Do About It?
Here is the truth: you are entitled to — and deserve — so much better than what the Zurich policy is willing to give you. Illinois courts have consistently ruled that even if the face of an independent contractor agreement, they find contractors to be employees for the purposes of workers compensation — if their day-to-day work is indistinguishable from what regular employees do.
However, Zurich and trucking companies have built a legal fortress to defend themselves against giving benefits that workers are entitled to. They are not going to go down without a fight, so be prepared with legal help and get paid what you are owed.
We have represented many truck drivers going through this process. There are mechanisms in the Workers Compensation Act we have successfully used to win cases for our injured clients. We’ve done it before, and we’re ready to do it again for you.
Even if you were hurt in the past, we can still do something now to get the benefits you didn’t receive. The statute of limitations for workers compensation cases is 3 years from the date of the accident, or 2 years from the last receipt of benefits. We can help you receive any additional benefits you were owed and should have received automatically through workers compensation.
If you want to put an end to Zurich and the company short-changing you week after week, the first step is filling out the form below. One of our staff members will contact you to get some additional details about your accident.
There are no fees for contacting us and there is no obligation. The only way that we get paid is if we recover money for you. There are no upfront fees or costs involved. Get started today.