Injuries on the Way to Work

In some situations an injury that happens while going to work may be covered by workers’ compensation.  Normally, if an employee drives to work and has an accident on the way there, the injury is not covered by an employer’s workers compensation insurance.  But, there may be other coverage like no-fault car insurance.  There are exceptions to the so-called “going and coming” rule.  If an employer owns or controls the parking lot where an employee trips and falls, there is an operating premises rule that allows workers compensation coverage.  However, a recent Supreme Court case held that where an employee of a store in a shopping center was walking into work from he parking lot when she fell and was injured, her employer’s workers’ compensation insurance did not cover the injury because her employer did not own or control the parking lot.  If the employee is traveling on an errand for the employer, or is traveling from one job task to another, without a substantial deviation, the injury should be covered under workers compensation.  In situations where an employee takes an employer vehicle home, accidents traveling to an from the employee’s home are covered if the arrangement is for the employer’s benefit, such as a work truck being taken home so that the employee can drive to a distant job site.  A recent Supreme Court case held that an employee who traveled to Saratoga on behalf of his employer to act as a groom during horse sales was covered by the employer’s workers’ compensation when he was injured while traveling back to Kentucky, even though he had not come back to Kentucky with his employer.  Another exception, the traveling employee doctrine, holds that when a person’s work requires traveling for work such as a salesman or a truck driver, he is covered during his entire trip unless there was a substantial deviation from the trip’s purpose. Even if a trip has both a personal and a work-related purpose, an injury occurring while on the trip  may still be covered if the main purpose of the trip is for work.  The trip is personal under the test if it would have been made without regard to the business purpose and would have been dropped in the event of the failure of the private purpose. The trip is work-related if it would have been made regardless of the private purpose, because the service to be performed for the employer would have caused the journey to be made by someone even if it had not coincided with the employee’s personal journey.  Facts and circumstances in every situation can determine whether the trip is covered by workers’ compensation or not, and you should consult a lawyer to determine if workers’ compensation is an option you can pursue if you have had an injury while traveling to or from work.