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Can You File for Workers’ Comp for an Injury on the Road?

When you sustain an injury, the most important question for workers’ compensation purposes is whether the injury is work related. For injuries that occur on the road, an insurer would ask why you were on the road, whether that activity conferred any benefit to your employer, and whether your injury arose from risks that relate to your employment.

First, let’s consider your daily commute. Injuries that occur on the way to and from work are generally not eligible for workers’ compensation. For most commuters, their job does not present them with any specific risks in transit that another job would not also present. You might argue that your coming to work confers a benefit on your employer, but you benefit as well or you would not have taken the job.

Travel must be more integral to your job to trigger workers’ comp protection. For example, if you were a traveling salesperson, your job would require you to be on the road. The risks of the road would be tied to your work activity, and your being on the road would confer a benefit to your employer, because without your travel, you couldn’t make any sales.

Those examples demonstrate the extreme cases of eligible and ineligible travel. However, many California workers’ comp cases fall in the grey area between the two. Consider these scenarios:

  1. Your boss asks you to pick up supplies for the office on your way into work.
  2. Your company holds an off-site business meeting in the middle of the day. You must drive from work to the site.
  3. Your company asks you to attend an off-site seminar instead of coming to work.
  4. Your company holds an off-site luncheon during business hours at which no business is discussed.
  5. Your company holds an off-site luncheon during business hours at which some business is discussed.
  6. Your company cafeteria closes unexpectedly. You drive to an off-site restaurant to grab lunch.

Let’s imagine that for each of these scenarios, you were injured in transit. For which could you file a workers’ comp claim?

  1. Maybe, if the errand required you to substantially alter your route to work, and altering your route contributed to the injury.
  2. Yes, because your boss is requiring you to do additional travel for a specific business purpose.
  3. Maybe not, because this is very similar to a standard commute. But maybe, if the accident arose from a specific risk of the new route.
  4. Maybe, but not if the court decides this was a purely social occasion. It may depend on whether attendance is viewed as mandatory.
  5. The case is stronger if the business discussion is integral to the gathering.
  6. Probably not, because your lunch is for your benefit, not your company’s, no matter how much more productive you think it makes you. Ironically, if you slipped and fell in the company cafeteria, you would be covered, because eating on site is usually seen as conferring a benefit on your employer.

Because the presentation of facts can make all the difference to your claim, you should consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney for help. A knowledgeable lawyer at the Tous Law Group can evaluate your case for free. Call 714-602-4473 or contact our Orange County office online to schedule a free consultation.

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