North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Can Cover Car Accidents that Occur Work, Says Gaines Gentry v. Mandujano

Work-related injury can be a pretty ambiguous term. Determining whether your North Carolina work injury falls within the parameters of a qualifying work injury can be complicated. This is why it is so important to have an experienced workers’ compensation attorney guiding you through the workers’ compensation process.
Recently, the Kentucky Supreme Court discussed the parameters of scope of employment. Scope of employment is a term used frequently in workers’ compensation cases to describe activities that are normally performed as part of a job function.
Workers’ compensation provides benefits to employees who are injured while acting within the scope of their employment. Also, benefits are awarded in cases where an injury is obtained through continuous movements associated with an employee’s job functions. A frequent question for courts around the country deals with whether a car accident that occurs while an employee is working can be covered by workers’ compensation.

The question for the courts has then hinged on the question, what falls within the guidelines of the word “work” for workers’ compensation purposes.

Gaines Gentry v. Mandujano is an appeal that arose because of an Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) decision granting an employee benefits. Mandujano (claimant) worked as a groom at a Kentucky horse farm owned by Gaines Gentry Thoroughbreds (Gaines). Gaines had a business association with horse consignment seller called Easton Sales (Eaton). Claimant was responsible for showing Eaton horses as part of his job duties.

As part of Eaton’s business, it was to provide yearlings to be sold at a horse sale in New York. Eaton had six yearlings that were to be transported to New York for the sale. Eaton customarily sent these horses with a groom in order for the horses to be cared for until their sale. Because Gaines was associated with Eaton, Gaines ordered the claimant to attend to the yearlings during transport to New York. The claimant was paid to travel in the van to New York and remain at the sale until all of the six horses were sold. Gaines did not provide the claimant with a method of return, nor did Gaines tell claimant when he needed to return.

Once the six yearlings were sold for Eaton, the claimant assisted another horse seller in order to sell lesser quality horses. After the New York sale ended, Gaines returned to Kentucky to continue his work for Gaines. On his way back to Kentucky, claimant was involved in a very serious car accident where he suffered injuries to his teeth, spine and skull. After the claimant recovered, he entered a workers’ compensation claim against Grimes for injuries he sustained while driving back to Kentucky after his work assignment in New York.

Gaines argued that because claimant had stayed longer in New York to help another employer, he was not acting within the scope of his employment with Gaines when he was involved in a car accident.

The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing the case evaluated all of the evidence and pointed to three factors that led to a benefit award for the claimant. First, it was important that Gaines would have sent another employee to New York if the claimant had not gone because it shows that the travel was job related. Next, the ALJ points to the fact that Gaines paid the claimant to travel. Also, because the employer did not provide the employee with transportation to return to Kentucky, any method of transport would be acceptable. Lastly, where an employer instructs an employee to travel for work, any travel the employee undertakes as part of that commission is considered within the scope of employment.

For the reasons listed above, benefits were awarded to the claimant.

Contact the Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at Lee Law Offices, P.A. for legal advice regarding your case and your rights. We are a dedicated law firm that is here to help to protect the rights of injured workers and their families. Call today to schedule a free and confidential appointment. Call 1-800-887-1965.

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