Parking Lot Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Claims

One of the more common areas for the occurrence of North Carolina work injuries are parking lots and parking decks.
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Employees traverse them every day, and yet our Greensboro workers’ compensation lawyers know these sites seldom receive the same maintenance as the company’s interior structure. This is especially true when the lots aren’t open to the public. Employee parking lots are frequently the site of back-over accidents, slips, trips and other injuries.

It’s been held by many courts and workers’ compensation boards in numerous jurisdictions that employees injured in work parking lots are entitled to receive benefits. Of course, there are always exceptions, and a number of factors can play into the decision. These include elements such as lot ownership and maintenance, the on-the-clock status of the worker, whether work equipment was involved, etc. As the recent case of Hersh v. County of Morris reveals, these matters can be complicated. In fact, this case made it all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court before a conclusion was reached, indicating this was an issue for which both sides felt it worth a fight.

Here, the employee in question worked at a county office. There was a county-owned parking lot directly across from her building, but she hadn’t yet obtained the seniority necessary to park there. Instead, her employer told her to park a few blocks away at a rented parking garage. The county gave her a scan card and she was told to park on the third floor.

One morning, the worker parked her car in the garage, exited the deck and was struck by a car while crossing the street on her way into the office. She sustained serious injuries.

She later filed a workers’ compensation claim. The judge overseeing her claim deemed it compensable, finding that if an employer provides or designates a parking lot to a worker and an injury occurs there, it should be considered part of the employer’s premises as far as workers’ compensation claims are concerned. The judge found that the injury had arisen during the course of her employment because it happened after she arrived at the lot controlled by her employer.

This finding was upheld by the appellate court, which noted that while the garage and sidewalk on the way to the office building weren’t technically employer property, the employer had exercised control over those areas by designating her a third-level parking space.

However, upon appeal, the state supreme court reversed on the grounds that the county didn’t control the parking garage. Neither did it control the routes of ingress or egress. It also didn’t have control over the public road where she was hurt, and the employer didn’t expose her to any additional or special hazards in her commute. It was on this basis that the state supreme court determined that the injury occurred outside the employer’s premises, and therefore wasn’t compensable.

One of the primary factors here was the coming and going rule. This is the principal that holds that workers are prevented from receiving workers’ compensation benefits arising from accidental injuries that happen during routine travel to or from their place of work. Based on this, “employment” commences when the worker arrives at his or her place of employment to report for work. It’s terminated when the employer leaves the place of employment.

In work-related parking lot injuries, it’s imperative for the workers’ compensation lawyer handling your case to establish the strong degree of control exerted by the employer over the lot, therefore indicating that it is part of the “place of employment.”

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Hersh v. County of Morris, April 1, 2014, New Jersey Suprem Court

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