Car Crashes and Workers’ Comp
Injured in an auto accident in North Carolina? No matter who was at fault, if your accident was connected to your job, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The law is complicated and depends on each situation, but here is a brief recap:
Generally (very, very generally) if an accident happens while you were on the way to work or home from work, workers’ compensation does not kick in. This is called the “coming and going” rule. The courts figure that the risk of injury while traveling to and from work is common to the public at large. But wait! There are many exceptions:
Accident occurred on employer’s premises
If the auto accident occurs on the employer’s premises, like in the parking lot, on a private road owned by the employer, or on a connector road between buildings or plants, then the accident most likely falls under workers’ compensation. And this rule applies to more than just auto accidents; accidents like slips and falls on the premises are covered, too.
Employee was running an errand or doing work for employer
Running to the grocery store for office coffee filters? Stopping by the office supply store for a new stapler? Visiting a client to give a price quote? All these are examples of the types of errands the North Carolina courts have found to be part of employment, entitling the worker to workers’ compensation benefits even if the auto accident occurred during the trip to or from work.
Employee has no definite time and place of work
If travel is contemplated as part of the job, like for a traveling salesperson, then generally an accident occurring during that travel is covered under workers’ compensation. This usually does not apply to employees with fixed hours and a fixed place of work. Instead, this exception applies to injuries arising during travel connected to the job, such as when the employer provides the vehicle or pays for costs like gas.
Be careful, though; this one is tricky. The key here is that the employer provides transportation or gas money as a benefit of the employment, which usually means it was discussed as part of the hiring. For example, if your boss tells you the pay is $12 per hour plus gas money, or $10 per hour plus company truck, then the courts will probably find that transportation is part of the employment contract and workers’ compensation applies. On the other hand, if the boss just casually lets you drive the company truck if you so choose, it might not fall under workers’ compensation. Just this week in Wright v. Alltech, (March 19, 2019), a worker who crashed a company vehicle was denied workers’ compensation benefits because the court found the boss had lent him the work truck as an accommodation, not as part of the employment contract. This case shows the delicacy of the law on this issue; seemingly insignificant facts make a world of difference in determining whether workers’ compensation applies.
Ricci Law Firm regularly represents workers injured in auto accidents while traveling to work, home from work, or between jobsites. If you were injured on the road, before speaking to an insurance adjuster, contact one of our certified workers’ compensation specialists to discuss your situation.