While workers’ compensation law can vary from state-to-state, generally the coming-and-going rule is universally recognized as barring coverage of benefits. That is, if a worker is on her way to or leaving from her place of employment, any injuries sustained in the course of that commute are not compensable because they don’t occur within the ordinary course of employment.
However, courts across the country have come to different conclusions about what exactly “coming and going” is and how it should be interpreted.
Many states, including North Carolina, have accepted the “premises exception” to the coming and going rule. This essentially holds that injuries arising on the employer’s premises (i.e., a parking lot, stairway, etc.) would be payable, even though the worker was hurt while going to or leaving work.
Each case will be considered on its own merits, and it’s to your advantage to have an experienced Winston-Salem workers’ compensation lawyer advocating for you.
A recent case out of California reveals the discretion courts have in these matters. In Schultz v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Bd., the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Five annulled a denial of benefits to a worker suffered during commute. The injuries occurred in the course of a traffic accident while he was driving his personal vehicle, but on a U.S. Air Force base where his private employer had several offices.
According to court records, the civilian worker was driving his personal vehicle outside work hours when he crashed his car during his morning commute to work. It’s true that one’s occasional use of an employer’s car for work purposes doesn’t automatically make an employer liable for injuries suffered by a worker in the course of commute.
This was the finding of the workers’ compensation board.
On appeal, the worker argued he used his personal vehicle at times to accommodate his company, acting with the firm’s express or implied agreement, and that once he entered the secure area of the Air Force base, he had effectively “arrived at work” under the premises line rule (or premises exception).
The appellate court sided with the worker, finding the premises line rule was applicable. In reaching this conclusion, the court noted:
- The worker was on a secure Air Force base, generally not open to the public;
- He entered the base in his personal vehicle after passing a gate guard and using a security pass issued by his employer with Air Force approval;
- The worker traveled one mile inside the base before the crash occurred;
- Undisputed evidence revealed worker was employed at a fixed location, but the employer had numerous offices on the base, and the worker sometimes traveled in his own vehicle as needed to carry out work assigned by his employer.
Based on all these facts collectively, the appellate court found the denial of benefits under the coming-and-going rule was improper, and thus the worker should be awarded benefits based on the premises line rule.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Schultz v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Bd., Jan. 6, 2015, California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Divisi Five
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Paulino v. Chartis Claims – Bad Faith Insurance Claim in Workers’ Compensation, Jan. 13, 2015, Winston-Salem Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog