Injuries Incurred While Leaving Work May be Still Compensable

One of the ways employers and insurance companies seek to deny benefits paid to workers who have been injured on the job is by claiming that the injury was sustained outside of employment. floor

One way in which they are sometimes successful in this is by arguing the Coming & Going rule. Florida courts have held to the theory that if a worker is traveling to or from work, they are not considered to be “in the course or scope of employment” unless they are on duty.

However, there are exceptions to the Coming & Going rule, and important to consult with an experienced work accident lawyer ¬†to determine whether your injury may be compensable. One of the best examples is if a worker is on his way to the job and is injured on the job site or in a parking lot owned and controlled by the employer, that injury is probably compensable – even if work hasn’t officially started. Similarly, people who travel from one job site to the next in the course of their job would also likely be covered. Same goes for those who are injured performing a service for the employer, even if off-site.

A recent example of an exception to the Coming & Going rule (which is recognizes in many states) recently was weighed by courts in Oklahoma. There, the state supreme court ruled in Graham Public Schools v. Priddy¬†that a work injury sustained by a worker leaving the job while still on the property was compensable. This was true even though the employee wasn’t performing a work function, and was in fact leaving early to attend to a family emergency.

According to court records, it was February 2011 when the worker received a call that a family member was having a medical emergency. In leaving to attend to this matter, the rug outside the door slipped out from underneath her. She fell to the ground and sustained serious injuries.

The courts issued conflicting rulings about whether the worker was entitled to benefits. The Workers’ Compensation Court found that she should receive benefits, while the Court of Civil Appeals determined she should not. The appellate court reasoned that because the worker was on a “personal mission” at the time of the fall, it could not be considered work-related.

However, the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed, finding that she was, in fact, entitled to benefits. The court found that the employee’s reason for leaving work was relevant, but not dispositive in determining whether the coming-and-going injury arose out of the course of employment. The court cited an earlier ruling in which justices had determined that an injury sustained by a worker going to or coming from work would be compensable if:

  • The plaintiff’s employment had a connection to the causative risk encountered;
  • The precipitating risk of harm was created or maintained by the employer.

Here, the undisputed risk of harm was a rug that the employer had placed outside a door used by workers who exited the building. Not only had the rug slipped from underneath her, it slid as she tried to stand up after the fall, forcing her to crawl onto the sidewalk.

The employer never denied it had placed the rug there or attempted to argue that it wasn’t slippery. There was also no conflict of evidence.

The high court thus deemed the worker was entitled to benefits.

In cases of a work injury, workers’ compensation benefits are just one possible avenue for collecting damages. Consult with an experienced attorney to determine your options.

If you have been injured in a South Florida accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.