Car Accidents and Workers’ Compensation

The borderline between work and leisure has eroded significantly for many people in recent years.  Laptop computers, tablets, smartphones, and other devices have made it simple to stay connected and do work from many different locations.  It is not uncommon for people to leave the office, drive home, boot up their home computer and continue to work.  Blurring the line between work and home can sometimes create confusion regarding workers’ compensation and when an employee is eligible for benefits.  To be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits, an employee must demonstrate that the injury is work related, meaning it is connected to a job-related purpose.  If an employee is injured while at the place of business, the injury is typically (although not always) considered work-related.  However, if the employee is injured while driving, it is possible that the employee may still be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.  Commuting to and from work is not typically considered part of employment, even if the employee intends to work more once arriving home.  It is important for an employer to understand when the business may be liable for workers’ compensation benefits when the employee was driving.

Like other injuries, to demonstrate that the injury sustained while driving is covered under workers’ compensation, the driving must be work-related.  The inquiry will focus on whether the reason for the driving is related to the employee’s job duties.  For example, if the employee decides to drive to the local store to buy a snack and gets in an accident, that will likely not be covered under workers’ compensation. However, if the same employee was going to the store to purchase items at the direction of his or her boss to use at the business, then the injury would be covered under workers’ compensation, even if the employee happened to pick up the snack while at the store.  In essence, the inquiry is whether the purpose for the driving was for the business, and done in the course and scope of the employee’s job.

Employers should also note that the workers’ compensation benefits the employee will not be reduced even if the car accident was the employee’s fault.  This is because unlike the system underpinning auto insurance, workers’ compensation is a no fault system.

An important exception to the typical rule that injuries sustained while commuting are not covered by workers’ compensation is if, for example, the employee is driving to a distant work-site that is not the typical office or work space for that employee.

We have experience assisting our clients understand whether their employee’s injuries are work related.  Call us today and let us help you with your business.

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