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 worksite 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.