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The Effect Of Long-Haul Trucking On Workers’ Compensation

Posted by Jeffrey Forbes on Feb 8, 2016 9:00:00 AM



Jurisdiction for Worker’s Compensation claims can be tricky in the trucking industry.  Most long-haul truckers will not spend a significant portion of their time working in any one specific state.   In fact, many will spend a large portion of their time driving in states where their company may not have offices and certainly where their company is not headquartered.  

Determining whether Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation law will apply to a long-haul trucker can be a complicated question. 

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Generally speaking, there are three broad categories in which a trucking company will be subject to Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law:

  1. When the injury occurs in Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation law explicitly states that it applies to all injuries that occur in Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law will apply to an injury that occurs in Pennsylvania even if the employee and employer have an agreement that attempts to deprive other states of jurisdiction over Workers’ Compensation issues.  Pennsylvania’s interest in ensuring adequate compensation for workers within their borders will override all attempts to remove the state’s jurisdiction.
  2. When the employer has a place of business in Pennsylvania and the employee regularly works at or from such place of business, even if the injury occurs outside of Pennsylvania.  One should note that this also applies if the employee is on a temporary assignment of less than a year outside the state.    
  3. When an employee domiciled in Pennsylvania who spends a substantial amount of their time working in Pennsylvania is injured outside of Pennsylvania. 

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This last test was the subject of a recent case in front of the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board:  William Watt v. WCAB.

While untarping a cargo load,in the spring of 2011, William Watt felt pain running from the back of his right shoulder into his right arm and down to the fingertips of his right hand. Since the injury, he did not return to work for Boyd Brothers Transportation- in any capacity and has been receiving WC benefits through Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation system. (See more at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/pa-commonwealth-court/1713211.html#sthash.3TgR4YaA.dpuf)



  • Boyd Brothers Transportation is headquartered in Alabama
  • Watt’s employment contract specifically stated that Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation laws would apply to all on-the-job injuries
  • The trucker was a domicile of Pennsylvania during his employment and when the injury occurred
  • The injury occurred in New Jersey
  • Over the 35,924 miles of driving during employment, he drove 6196 miles in Pennsylvania
  • The trucker tried to argue that he qualified as someone who spent a substantial amount of time working in Pennsylvania because he drove more in Pennsylvania than any other state.



Both the Worker’s Compensation Appeal Board and an appellate court held that the worker did not qualify as someone who spent a substantial amount of time working in Pennsylvania.  The evidence showed that the trucker only spent less than 20% of his time driving in Pennsylvania.  While this was enough to show that he drove more in Pennsylvania than any other state, that number was also quite close to some other states, notably Ohio (4689 miles) and Virginia (5031 miles).  

The Court did not feel the amount of driving within the state of Pennsylvania rose to the threshold of a “substantial amount.”  The Court then looked to whether the trucker tended to work in Pennsylvania as a rule ,and did not consider this amount sufficient. 



Still, trucking companies that regularly do business in Pennsylvania need to be aware of when and how they might be subject to Pennsylvania’s laws as they relate to Workers’ Compensation.  

Such companies should make sure they have a full and complete conversation with their insurance agents to make sure they have proper coverage and are doing what they can to minimize their risks. 


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Topics: Trucking & Logistics, For Your Business, Workers' Compensation