For the most part, employees on their way to and leaving from work are not eligible for workers' compensation. This is referred to as the "coming-and-going rule." In other words, accidents during these times are an employee's business, and her employer is not on the hook. It also should be noted that employees who are running errands during a work day that are substantially unrelated to their employment also are not covered by workers' compensation.
5 Times When Workers' Compensation May Be in Play
Let's talk, however, about when a commuting employee might be covered. Here are five situations that could be covered by work comp:
1.) Salespeople, nurses, and other employees who are on the road a lot often are exempt from the coming-and-going rule. Travel is integral to their employment because they don't work from a fixed office.
2.) On-call employees likely are covered from the moment they are called into work even if they get hurt at home.
3.) Employees who are injured during business travel may receive compensation, even if the accident happens during recreation. Courts generally are liberal in determining work comp eligibility in work travel accidents, even if the injurious activity would not be considered work related at home.
4.) If an employee has to drive through a "zone of danger" — construction sites, blasting zones — to get to work, he may be eligible if injured.
5.) If an employee runs a work-related errand on the way home from work and gets in an accident, her injuries may be compensable. Another example of this would be if an employee is injured running a work-related errand while out for [personal time] lunch. This relates to the dual purpose or capacity concept.
It's worth noting that workers' compensation coverage for commuting employees varies state to state. Because of this, it's best practice for insured companies to report possible workers' compensation claims ASAP. Quick and accurate reporting allows insurance carriers to investigate and determine compensability.
Assessing the Situation
Asking the following questions will assess whether the coming-and-going rule applies to a potential claim:
- Did the injury happen during a normal commute or during a personal errand away from work during the work day?
- Was the trip for personal reasons? If not, did it include personal and business tasks? If so, would the trip have been made if the personal reasons were eliminated?
- Did the employee deviate from a personal trip to run an errand for the employer? If so, did the employer request the errand?
- Is travel part of the employee's job duties?
- Is the employee required to drive her own car to work for job responsibilities, or is it a company car, or is the employee reimbursed for mileage?
- Did the employer pay entirely for the travel?
- Is reimbursement for commuting costs/time part of the employee's work contract?
- Was the travel between multiple work sites or buildings that are controlled by the employer?
- If the injury occurred off employer property, was it during entrance or exit from the place of employment?
- Were any aspects of the trip unusually hazardous?
- What benefit did the employer gain from the employee's trip? Was the trip mutually beneficial for employer and employee?
- Was the employee on call?
- Was the employee attending an event at the request of the employer (e.g., conference, training)?
- Was the employee transferring work-related materials that presented a special risk?
- Did misconduct or illegal conduct contribute to the accident?
The answers to these questions are a starting point to help determine whether a potential claim would fall under work comp. If you do have a potential claim, consult your risk advisor or HNI Relationship Manager to explore these criteria further.
How do you manage risk brought on by commuting employees? Please share below in comments!