When a Car Accident Can Lead to a Workers’ Compensation Claim

There are a wide variety of ways that an employee can sustain a work-related injury.  An employee can slip and fall, sustain a repetitive motion injury such as carpal tunnel, or even a psychiatric injury like post-traumatic stress disorder.  When an employee sustains an injury at work, while working, it is almost always clear that the employee’s injury is covered under the workers’ compensation system.  However, when an employee is injured in a car accident, it may be more difficult to unravel whether the injury is covered by workers’ compensation.

The essential inquiry when determining whether injuries sustained by an employee in a car accident will be covered under workers’ compensation is whether they were driving in the car in the course and scope of their employment. The very nature of some employment involves a lot of driving, such as plumbers or patrolling law enforcement.  There can be difficulties, however, in determining whether the driving was being done in the course and scope of employment in other cases.  For example, if the worker is driving during lunch break, then it is likely not in the course and scope of employment.  However, if the employee is running an errand at the request of his or her supervisor when the car accident occurs, then the employee’s injuries are much more likely to be considered in the course and scope of employment.  In other words, even if the employee is driving during work hours, this does not necessarily mean that injuries sustained during a car accident will be covered by workers’ compensation.

It is also important to note that an accident that occurs when an employee is commuting to or from work is usually not covered by workers’ compensation.  There are, however, exceptions to this general rule.  If the employee is driving to a work site that is not the employee’s typical work location, then that commute may be covered by workers’ compensation, especially if the site is much farther away than the distance involved in his or her typical commute.

Employers should keep in mind that the workers’ compensation system is a no-fault system.  This means that the employee does not have to prove that the employer was somehow at fault for the accident.  Conversely, even if the employer can prove the employee was in part at fault for the accident, it will not mean that he or she will be rendered ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

If you have questions about whether your business is liable for car accident injuries to an employee, call us today.  We can talk to you about your rights and responsibilities.

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.

Car Accidents and Workers’ Compensation

According to the United States Census Bureau, Los Angeles County has the highest percentage of people commuting from out of county in the United States.  In addition, the commute to work for workers in and around Los Angeles County was higher overall than the national average, especially in the category of workers who commute at least an hour.  After workers arrive at work, it is extremely common for the driving to continue.  Workers make deliveries, go to clients’ homes, run courier services, drive trucks, and an enormous variety of other jobs which require vehicular transportation.  With so much driving going on, there are bound to be accidents.  In some cases, a car accident may be covered by workers’ compensation.

 Workers’ compensation provides a means for workers to obtain compensation when they have sustained a work-related injury.  Accordingly, when there is a car accident, the inquiry becomes whether the accident while the employee was engaged in a work-related activity.  Some examples of work-related activities would be driving to make a delivery or driving to a client meeting, running errands on behalf of the business such as picking up office supplies, or going to a service call.  All of these activities are within the scope of the employee’s job.  In other words, an employee is “on the clock” during these times, and going to the destination is necessary to complete their duties.

 What is not generally included are times that an employee is not engaged in work-related activities.  These would include running personal errands, going to lunch, or your commute to or from work.  These are times that you would generally not be getting paid for, and are not in the scope of an employee’s work-related duties. Therefore, if an employee sustains an injury during a car crash at times like those, it is not considered a work-related injury and is not compensable under workers’ compensation.  This is generally what is known as the “going and coming rule.”  In other words, if you are coming to or going from work, that is not generally covered under workers’ compensation.  The “going and coming rule” is not enunciated in the California Labor Code, and instead has been created through a series of cases.  There are many exceptions to the rule, as well, so employers should be cautious as to whether an exception applies.

 If you have questions about car accidents and whether your business is liable under workers’ compensation, contact me today at (714) 516-8188. Let’s talk about your business and its future.

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