Workers’ Compensation is a no-fault insurance system designed to protect employees who become injured or ill in the workplace. Workers’ Compensation is funded by employers who are participating in the program. In Delaware and other states, the majority of employers are required to have Workers’ Compensation insurance.
Workers’ Compensation benefits include payments to cover costs for medical bills, partial wage replacement, and rehabilitation. Workers’ Compensation is limited in scope, and it only covers employees who became injured or ill at work or while performing a task or duty essential to their job. In Delaware, the Office of Workers’ Compensation enforces laws regarding industrial accidents and illnesses.
Some states also follow the personal comfort doctrine. This allows an employee to be covered under Workers’ Compensation if they are injured while taking a short comfort-related break, such as getting a snack or using the bathroom. States that follow the doctrine cover injuries during these breaks, while states that do not follow the doctrine do not.
Where an injury takes place is an important factor in evaluating whether it is covered under Workers’ Compensation. Some people are permanently stationed at one specific workplace; however, that is not the case for many employees. Some employees work from home, and others have no single designated workplace. Accordingly, workplace injuries that qualify for Workers’ Compensation benefits can happen almost anywhere.
The coming and going rule generally excludes injuries that happen when a worker is commuting to and from work. Exceptions to the coming and going rule can apply. If an employee is injured while on their employer’s premises, then they could qualify for Workers’ Compensation according to the premises rule, even if the injury happens while beginning or ending their commute.
What is the Premises Rule?
The premises rule applies in Delaware. A worker injured in their employer’s parking lot or place of employment will generally be covered under Workers’ Compensation under the premises rule. The premises rule also applies in New Jersey. However, courts have considered the interplay between the premises rule and the coming and going rule, and they have not applied the premises rule broadly.
In a recent decision, a New Jersey employee who was injured in a public employer-owned parking lot on their way home from work was first granted Workers’ Compensation under the coming and going rule at trial. In an appeal, the decision was reversed in favor of the employer. This appears to be a limited decision based on special circumstances in the case. The employer was a local government that owned a parking lot that was used by its employees, but the lot was not under the employer’s exclusive control.
Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Car Accidents?
There is no prohibition against providing benefits to employees who are injured while driving. However, those injured while commuting to and from work are not covered under Workers’ Compensation. Driving-related injuries covered under the program are those where the driver was performing a task or duty essential for their job.
For employees who have no designated location to report to work, car accidents while performing essential tasks for work are covered. For example, visiting nurses must go to their clients’ homes to perform their job duties. A visiting nurse could not perform their job otherwise, so driving from one client to another is considered an essential work task. Accordingly, if a visiting nurse gets in a car accident while driving from one client to another, then any injury that results can be covered by Workers’ Compensation. The same is true for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) repair technicians and those who travel from one client to another.
If a construction supervisor must monitor multiple worksites in a single day and gets injured in a car accident while traveling, they will still be covered. If a salesperson is expected to travel to visit clients and prospective clients as part of the job, then getting injured while traveling from one location to the next will be a covered activity.
What if I am Injured While Traveling to a Work Event?
Some employees who are normally assigned to a permanent worksite may be expected by their employer to travel to an event for work, such as conferences and trade shows. When an employee is traveling to these events, then injuries sustained while traveling to and from the event will be covered.
Injuries incurred while driving will be covered by Workers’ Compensation under the following circumstances:
- The travel was required to perform essential work tasks.
- The employee traveled between worksites.
- The employer requested the worker to travel to and from an event.
- The employee was transporting work-related materials.
The travel will have had to be sanctioned by the employer. Driving is one mode of transportation, but injuries during other types of travel will be covered if the employer approved the travel.
Are Remote Employees Eligible for Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Recently, there have been adjustments made to work arrangements, including altered schedules and the ability to work from home. Many employees might wonder if remote work injuries are covered. It is possible to qualify for Workers’ Compensation benefits while working from home, depending on when and how the injury happened. If an injury occurred during work or arose from job-related duties, then it will likely be covered.
A relevant issue is whether the employer approved the at-home task before the injury happened. Additionally, it is important to address these questions:
- Was the employer benefiting from the task being performed?
- Was the task required by the employer?
These will determine whether an injury will be covered by Workers’ Compensation benefits.
Employers who allow their employees to work from home often take steps to limit their liability for injuries. They may seek to establish a remote work policy with clear expectations. Some topics that may be covered include:
- Defining the employee’s work hours and specific duties to be performed.
- Setting guidelines for the employee’s workspace, including equipment positioning and lighting.
An employee who has been injured while working from home bears the burden of proving that the injury they experienced was work-related. It must have happened when they acted in the interest of the employer.
It can be difficult to substantiate a Workers’ Compensation claim, especially if the employee was traveling at the time of injury. For help with a difficult Workers’ Compensation case, an injured employee should seek legal assistance.
Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Help Injured Employees Navigate the Coming and Going Rule
Filing for Workers’ Compensation is an important step after a work accident, but complications can arise. Some employees must travel for their job, and those workers may wonder what happens if they become injured. It may be difficult to understand if a work injury will be covered under Workers’ Compensation. If you need help solving your work injury case, speak to an experienced Wilmington Workers’ Compensation lawyer at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC. We will find evidence to support your case. Complete our online form or call us at 302-888-1221 for a free consultation and for more information. We are conveniently located in Wilmington, Delaware, and we proudly assist clients throughout Dover, Newark, and Middletown.